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.”

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Eagle Eye podcast: What Jason Peters move means for Andre Dillard, plus much more

Eagle Eye podcast: What Jason Peters move means for Andre Dillard, plus much more

On the latest Eagle Eye podcast, Reuben Frank and Barrett Brooks take a long look at the Eagles’ decision to bring back Jason Peters.

They get into what the move means for Andre Dillard, whether Peters will ultimately end up back at left tackle, how long J.P. might be able to extend his career if he stays at guard, how long it will take him to adjust to a new position and and much more. 

They also looked at defensive tackle and defensive end on the All-Time Eagles Team and whether Fletcher Cox or Jerome Brown is the greatest defensive tackle in Eagles history. 

(0:42) — Jason Peters back with the Eagles to play right guard

(27:18) — Jerome vs. Fletcher 

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Eagles fans won't be allowed at games this fall, health officials say

Eagles fans won't be allowed at games this fall, health officials say

Eagles fans should start coming to grips with watching games from their couch in 2020.

After the city of Philadelphia cancelled "large public events" through February 2021 on Tuesday, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, health officials provided an update on the feasability of fans watching Eagles games in person.

Philadelphia Department of Health commissioner Thomas Farley and Philadelphia managing director Brian Abernathy made it sound all but certain that Lincoln Financial Field stands will be empty.

Per the Inquirer:

"I do think that games can be played with the kind of safety precautions that they're proposing. I do not think that they can have spectators at those games. There’s no way for them to be safe having a crowd there," Farley said. "I can't say what the plans are for the league, but from a safety perspective, they can play games but not [have] crowds."

"The Eagles are still going to be allowed to play, although without crowds. The Phillies will continue to be allowed to play, although without crowds," Managing Director Brian Abernathy said.

Abernathy said NFL guidelines also "remind teams that local authorities have the ability to ban fans, so I don't expect any issues."

"We have been in communication with the Eagles. We have told them our expectations are that they don't have fans," Albernathy said.

Whether other teams around the country will be able to host fans, based on differing guidance from state officials, remains to be seen. Earlier this month, reports emerged claiming the NFL is considering fan waivers for those interested in attending home games this season.

A season without home fans also means the Eagles stand to lose a sizable sum of money if the NFL plays its 17-week regular season as scheduled.

As NBC Sports Philadelphia's Dave Zangaro noted, the Eagles will be one of the 10 teams most affected (financially) by a lack of fans at home games:

The Eagles in 2018 were tied for eighth in the NFL with $204 million in stadium revenue. Just the Cowboys, Patriots, Giants, Texans, Jets 49ers and Redskins made more.

In late June, the organization informed season ticket holders that their ticket installment payments would not be billed, fueling speculation that games would be played in empty stadiums this fall. 

Barring a drastic change in the pandemic's trajectory between now and early September, it seems that speculation was right.

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