Eagles

Eagles' JJ Arcega-Whiteside continues to make signature plays look easy

Eagles' JJ Arcega-Whiteside continues to make signature plays look easy

It seems like every day reporters have been allowed to watch Eagles practice this spring, rookie receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside makes one of his calling-card catches. You know, the ones that made him a second-round pick, where he uses his elite body control and basketball background to leap over helpless cornerbacks, pluck a football out of midair and come down in the end zone for a touchdown. 

Those catches. 

“Y’all guys came on good days,” said Arcega-Whiteside, humbly. 

Lucky us. 

But it’s probably more than just dumb luck that’s had us witness some of his signature plays during OTAs. It probably has something to do with the fact that he might be pretty damn good and these are just the kinds of plays he makes more than some other players. If that’s the case — and it’s still early — it looks like the Eagles got a player with the 57th pick. 

On Wednesday, the play Arcega-Whiteside made came in the end zone nearest Broad Street. It was a perfect pass from Nate Sudfeld and poor Jeremiah McKinnon didn’t have much of a chance in coverage. Arcega-Whiteside caught it over the corner, tapped both big toes in bounds and the referee in that corner signaled it was a touchdown. There was no doubt about it. 

“He’s a young, hungry kid,” Sudfeld said. “He’s been awesome. He high-points the ball really well, has great feel, great hands. He’s a great red zone threat but he’s great in the open field too. Having him and some of these young players have been awesome. He’s doing a great job.” 

Arcega-Whiteside — again humble — said there’s not much of a secret to it either: “You just go up and get the ball.” 

Yeah, sure, that’s all it is. 

“At the end of the day, when it’s the red zone, you just have to go get it,” he continued. “There’s no other way to put it.”

The backstory here isn’t that Arcega-Whiteside is making these catches in practice; really, it’s all the work that goes into making them look so effortless. All the time behind the scenes he’s spent catching balls from Carson Wentz and Sudfeld, learning how footballs come out of their hands and allowing them to learn to trust him in 50-50 situations. That doesn’t happen overnight. 

Arcega-Whiteside said after every practice he gets some extra time with the quarterbacks, catching fades and back shoulder passes. Those are the situations where he thrives but can’t without building a rapport with the guys throwing the ball. 

“We definitely try to put the work in and perfect it,” he said. 

One change from playing at Stanford to now playing with the Eagles is that in college, Arcega-Whiteside ran a lot of “post-up routes” that don’t have a place in the Eagles’ playbook. He explained it’s actually easier for him to make these plays now without having to run a route and lean his body weight on a DB first. Now, he just goes up and gets the ball. 

A important aspect to Wentz’s being healthy this spring is that he’s able to work with his receivers, specifically his new receivers like DeSean Jackson and Arcega-Whiteside. On Wednesday, Arcega-Whiteside said it was difficult to adjust to a new quarterback at first, but repetition has definitely helped. He’s much further along than he was on draft day a couple months ago. 

The biggest area in which he wants to continue to improve is his understanding of the playbook. He wants to be able to shift his thinking on each particular play from, “What (responsibility) do I have?” to “How do I win this route?” 

If he keeps improving there, something tells me we haven’t seen the last of his signature catches. 

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Pitt runs Philly Special to snap UCF's winning streak

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USA Today Images/Charles LeClaire

Pitt runs Philly Special to snap UCF's winning streak

The Philly Special will never die, it appears.

Friday night, NFL Network named the mind-boggling touchdown pass from Trey Burton to Nick Foles in Super Bowl LII the 10th greatest play in NFL history.

Saturday, Pitt football used a version of the play to pull off a big upset over No. 15 UCF, who came into the contest with a 27-game non-bowl game winning streak, the longest in the FBS.

On 4th-and-3, wideout Aaron Mathews found QB Kenny Pickett for the score. Alex Kessman's extra point gave Pitt the lead. 

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said after the game on ESPN that the play call was "Pitt Special."

I'm not sure any football fans will ever think of that play as anything other than the Philly Special, but give credit to Narduzzi and his team for a gutsy call and perfect execution. 

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Eagles add wide receiver Greg Ward, place Jordan Mailata on IR

Eagles add wide receiver Greg Ward, place Jordan Mailata on IR

With DeSean Jackson out for Sunday and Alshon Jeffery questionable, the Eagles on Saturday signed wide receiver Greg Ward from the practice squad to the active roster.

To make room on the 53-man roster, they placed second-year offensive tackle Jordan Mailata on injured reserve for a second consecutive year with a back injury.

This is Ward’s first time on a 53-man roster, but he’s been in camp with the Eagles the last three summers and gotten better each year.

Ward is mainly a slot receiver, so if he does get on the field on offense Nelson Agholor would be outside. 

Earlier this week, Ward spoke about how he prepares, regardless of if he’s going to play or not.

“Honestly, I stay ready every week, because you never know,” he said. “Whenever my name is called, it’s called. If it’s not this week, if it’s not next week, I’m still going to prepare like I’m playing  every single week. It doesn’t really matter to me.”

Once the Eagles practiced Wednesday without adding an outside receiver it seemed like a lock that Ward would get the promotion, because he was able to practice all week and get the same reps whether he was on the 53 or the practice squad.

Without Ward, the Eagles had only three healthy receivers on the roster — Agholor, Mack Hollins and JJ Arcega-Whiteside.

Ward, a quarterback at Houston, first joined the Eagles in 2017 and spent the season on the practice squad. He was in camp again in 2018, then spent this past winter in the Alliance of American Football, catching 22 passes for 214 yards in eight games. When the AAF folded, he rejoined the Eagles.

Ward caught six passes for 87 yards and a 38-yard touchdown from Clayton Thorson in the preseason.

He was released with the final roster cutdown and signed to the practice squad as soon as he cleared waivers.

As for Mailata, it was really the smartest move for the Eagles, since the only alternative was releasing a player they didn’t want to release.

Depending on how he’s doing and depending also on other injuries, he would be a candidate to rejoin the 53-man roster after eight weeks on IR.

Mailata, like Ward, has never played in an NFL game.

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