Will we really see a different Jalen Reagor this year? It’s one of the biggest questions facing the Eagles in 2021.
Reagor has the answer.
“I feel like I’m a totally different person,” he said before practice Thursday. “So they’re going to see a different player, a different attitude. I’ll be out there having fun, for sure. They’ll see something different.”
Last year was a disappointing one for the 1st-round wide receiver. Injuries, inconsistency and a lack of production left him with just 31 catches for 396 yards and one touchdown in 11 games, and the constant comparisons with Vikings superstar Justin Jefferson, drafted one pick later, really got to Reagor.
He was a young 21-year-old rookie, and he wasn’t mentally ready for what he faced both on and off the field with a big-market NFL team. He sparred with fans on social media, he was often surly and defensive in interviews and the more he struggled on the field the more it seemed like his energy was directed the wrong way.
He certainly wasn’t alone in struggling last year. Pretty much everyone involved with the Eagles’ offense did. But it did seem like he had a tough time coping with it.
“I was young and I started paying attention to everything,” he said. “I don’t let things bother me anymore and and it keeps me in a good mental state.”
A lot has changed since Reagor’s rookie year.
New quarterback. New coaching staff. New offense. New playcaller. Healthy offensive line. DeVonta Smith.
Whether it adds up to a new and improved Reagor is an intriguing question. For this offense to work, the Eagles sure need him to be a legit No. 2 behind Smith.
Reagor caught a 55-yard pass on opening day last year and then had only three catches longer than 18 yards the rest of the year. His only touchdown catch was a 2-yarder against the Cowboys at the Linc.
Eleven rookie WRs had more yards than Reagor, and seven of them were drafted after him. Another was undrafted.
Disappointing all around.
He knew something had to change, and it did.
Reagor said what really clicked this offseason was the realization that he’s fortunate to be playing the game he loves and making good money doing it and it just didn’t make sense to keep focusing on the negative.
“Football is my job,” he said. “This is something that millions and millions of people in the world wish they could do this as a job. (I started) looking at the good in things. No matter how bad it gets, I play football. This is a game I grew up playing as a child and now I do it professionally as a job. Being happy, having fun, just being grateful to be here.”
He said he’s learned to ignore both criticism and praise, something new head coach Nick Sirianni has preached since he got here.
“I don’t look at it,” he said. “Last year, it was easy to see negative comments and easy to see good comments. This year I don’t really worry about either because I know both are going to come regardless.”
Reagor said his improvement has been physical as well as mental.
“I’m stronger and I feel like just getting my body in actual great condition,” he said. “I’ve always felt good, but now I’ve got a routine (and) I’ve learned certain things, learning from the older players and asking questions. I still talk to D-Jack (DeSean Jackson), I still talk to the guys I was around to get tips, because there’s a reason they’ve been around for so long.”
He’s preparing differently. He’s thinking differently. He’s behaving differently.
Will all that add up into Reagor playing differently? It’s a fascinating question and one we’ll start getting an answer to Sunday afternoon in Atlanta.
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