Over the next three weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 20 most important Eagles for the 2021 season.
18. Jalen Reagor
There’s no getting around it. Jalen Reagor had a disappointing rookie season.
The Eagles surprised people last year by using the No. 21 pick on Reagor out of TCU instead of picking LSU’s Justin Jefferson. Early returns don’t look good.
While Reagor struggled with injuries and subpar play, Jefferson came out and had a fantastic rookie season with 1,400 receiving yards and a Pro Bowl nod.
But don’t even worry about the comparisons to Jefferson. Because even without them, Reagor’s rookie season would have been disappointing. He ended up with just 31 catches for 396 yards and 1 touchdown. That’s not good enough and he knows it.
The good news is that it’s way too early to write Reagor off. And he still has the explosive traits that made him a first-round pick last year. Now, it’s just about getting those traits to show up on the field. That should be easier this year.
Really, it’s hard to judge any offensive player from last season. That unit was a mess. The quarterback was broken, the play caller lost his touch and the offensive line was held together by masking tape. That’s not to say Reagor didn’t deserve blame; he did. But there are plenty of reasons to think he’ll make a big jump heading into Year 2.
And the Eagles are counting on it.
“Honestly, you’re just going to see a whole lot of improvement,” Reagor said this spring. “That’s all I can say. Incline.”
In what areas did Reagor want to focus that improvement?
“Everything,” he responded. “Being a complete wide receiver, mastering the things that take no talent and then fine-tuning the details, doing everything with intent and just knowing that I’m blessed as well. Letting my God-given ability take over.”
There’s been a lot made of Reagor’s social media presence and whether or not he should be as active and defensive as he is. There’s reason to think it has affected him negatively. But there’s also a chance he’ll be able to use online criticisms as fuel. At least that’s what the Eagles have to be hoping.
If Reagor is able to stay strong mentally, the next key for him will be to stay healthy. He was very durable at TCU but his injury problems in the NFL started during training camp and lasted throughout the season. He ended playing in just 11 games as a rookie. In order to take a step forward this year, he obviously needs to be on the field.
And the mere presence of No. 10 overall pick DeVonta Smith should help. Not only will Smith warrant a ton of attention on the field, but he should also raise the overall level of play in the receiver room in 2021.
It’ll also be interesting to see how the new coaching staff uses Reagor. It didn’t seem like the last coaching staff had a great plan to get him involved. A big part of Nick Sirianni’s offensive strategy is going to be to get the all into his playmakers’ hands quickly. That could be a big boost for a play like Reagor, who has pretty exceptional YAC potential.
And after the Eagles lined him up primarily outside as a rookie, it would also make sense to get him lined up in the slot more in 2021 to get some mismatches but to also get some more explosion out of that position. While Greg Ward has been very sure-handed inside, he doesn’t have the game-breaking ability Reagor has.
Wherever Reagor lines up, he’s going to get a ton of opportunities to show he’s a much better player than he was as a rookie. After all, the Eagles are hoping he’ll be a cornerstone of this offense for years to come.
Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast: