Now with expanded role, JJ Arcega-Whiteside has to fine-tune connection with Carson Wentz

Now with expanded role, JJ Arcega-Whiteside has to fine-tune connection with Carson Wentz

After months of Mack Hollins and then Jordan Matthews, the Eagles are finally making the change it seemed like everyone wanted. As head coach Doug Pederson said on Wednesday, JJ Arcega-Whiteside is “kind of the guy now” at one of the outside receiver positions. 

Now that he has the opportunity, the rookie needs to fine-tune a few things. 

Especially with Carson Wentz. 

“We just gotta make plays,” Arcega-Whiteside said on Wednesday. “Everything ain’t going to be perfect. That’s for sure. But that’s what we strive to do, is make it as perfect as possible. Along the way, there’s going to be some bumps. We can get there.”

Arcega-Whiteside and Wentz need to get on the proverbial same page and they need to do it quickly. 

In a viral video breakdown, former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky pointed out two routes from Sunday that lacked detail from Arcega-Whiteside. 

One of those plays was a key 4th-and-2 in the fourth quarter. It looked like Arcega-Whiteside settled at the top of his route and when Wentz threw it to that spot, the rookie bounced to a different spot. That was the same criticism given by former Eagles receiver Bryce Treggs, too. 

“We’re two professionals, we gotta make the play,” Arcega-Whiteside said about the 4th-and-2. “I wouldn’t say it’s one person’s fault. We gotta make the play.”

The 22-year-old receiver detailed some of the process he goes through to work with Wentz to make sure they have an on-field rapport. A lot of it happens on the sideline and in the film room. 

Arcega-Whiteside said Wentz is very vocal in those conversations, but they’re conversations, not lectures. Wentz listens to his receivers and everyone gives their input as they figure these things out. The blame isn’t always on the receiver. 

“I have to be clearer with what we’re expecting and what we’re seeing and just been more decisive,” Wentz said. “There’s no excuses with that. It can be frustrating this late in the season when you’re having those mistakes and it’s something that we can talk about and talk about in advance so those mistakes don’t happen out on the field.”

While Arcega-Whiteside has played more at certain times this season, he didn’t come into the year as a starter, so he hasn’t gotten as much practice time as the starters. And Wentz has played with a lot of his other receivers for years at this point. 

But as much as they talk during the week and as much as they practice together, nothing replaces game reps. 

“A lot of it is trial and error,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “You’re going to make mistakes out there, but if you learn from those mistakes, then you do it again and it’s like, ‘boom,’ nobody’s even going to think twice about it. The other part is, going in and talking about it on the sideline and in the locker room. Just hashing out all the details.”

The reason the Eagles gave earlier in the season for Arcega-Whiteside’s lack of playing time was that he was the backup at the X receiver position, meaning he was Alshon Jeffery’s backup. But since then, he’s been cross-training and learning all three receiver positions. 

He hopes he’s at the point now where he can play without overthinking. That’s the goal for most rookies. 

Overall, it’s probably been a little bit of a disappointing season for Arcega-Whiteside; he has just five catches on the season. But he did have a 30-yard catch with 27 seconds left in the fourth quarter Sunday. It was a tough grab on an off-schedule play. It’s the Eagles’ only 30-plus yard catch in the month of November. 

Arcega-Whiteside hopes that catch can be a springboard of sorts. 

“Yeah, no doubt,” he said. “Those are tough, knowing that you’re going to get smacked as soon as you touch the ball. But it’s going to feel a lot better if you have the ball in your hands at the end of the play. Build off of that. How can we use that to our advantage? How can I use that to my advantage. Just keep going more and more and building off of it.”

Hitting the road this week, or wasting away on the couch in a food coma? The perfect time to binge your favorite NBC Sports Philadelphia podcast! Click here for more.

More on the Eagles

After egregious All-Pro snub, Brandon Brooks named top OL in NFL

After egregious All-Pro snub, Brandon Brooks named top OL in NFL

Earlier this month, Jason Kelce called Brandon Brooks “the best offensive lineman in the NFL.” 

Turns out, ProFootballFocus agrees.

On Thursday, PFF named Brooks the winner of its annual Bruce Matthews Award, given to the best offensive lineman in the NFL. The Eagles were also named the best overall offensive line in the league. 

It’s an honor Brooks deserves after he was egregiously snubbed by voters for the Associated Press All-Pro team earlier this month. It was an absolute joke that Brooks wasn’t even named to the second team. No disrespect to Zack Martin or Marshal Yanda but Brooks was better than both of them this year. 

There’s no doubt that Brooks is the best right guard in the NFL. PFF thinks he’s the best overall OL in the league too. 

Here’s what they said about him:

“Brooks has been a perennially underrated player throughout his NFL career, whether it was playing in Houston or Philadelphia. Aside from a rookie season in which he played just 173 snaps, he has earned overall PFF grades of at least 74.0 every season since. Four of those six seasons before this one saw him top 80.0 overall, but this year he took his game to another level, earning an overall grade of 92.9. For years we have been making the case that he deserves Pro Bowl, and then All-Pro, recognition, and now he deserves to be acknowledged as the best offensive linemen in the game.”

While opinions are split on ProFootballFocus, their evaluations for offensive linemen are incredibly valuable. PFF has been able to give stats to a position that was previously stat-less. No, they don’t necessarily know assignments or the exact designs of plays, but they grade each and every play and that detailed analysis can take some of the human element out of giving these awards. 

When the All-Pro voters made their selections, they picked two guys at right guard in Martin and Yanda who have a longer history of playing at an elite level. PFF doesn’t care about that. They did their game-by-game, play-by-play evaluations and came to the conclusion that no other offensive lineman was better than Brooks this season. 

According to PFF, Brooks gave up just one sack and and 19 pressures on 647 pass snaps. That’s pretty impressive. But it’s even more impressive that Brooks was that dominant eight months after suffering a torn Achilles. 

For the start of next season, Brooks will be coming off a shoulder surgery, but there’s no doubt he should be able to return to his dominant form in 2020. 

The Eagles know what they have in Brooks. They signed the three-time Pro Bowler to a four-year extension during the season that made him the highest-paid guard in the NFL and will keep him in Philadelphia through 2024.

More on the Eagles

Eagle Eye podcast: Day 15 of the Eagles’ never-ending search for an OC

USA Today Images

Eagle Eye podcast: Day 15 of the Eagles’ never-ending search for an OC

On the latest Eagle Eye podcast, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro realize they’ve been talking about the search for an OC for over two weeks already. 

Would Josh McCown make a good coach? These position coach jobs are pretty important too. Continuing stay or go. And looking at some mysteries surrounding the team. 

All that and more: 

• Day 15 of the hunt 
• Only team left without an OC 
• Josh McCown a candidate? 
• Don’t forget about the position coaches 
• Stay or Go: Safeties and linebackers 
• A few Eagles mysteries
• Picking the next Eagles Pro Bowler 
• Donovan vs. TO … again 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles