In the last three weeks, Mack Hollins has played 109 offensive snaps and has just one catch for 13 yards on five targets.
And JJ Arcega-Whiteside still can’t get on the field.
That needs to change.
If DeSean Jackson misses more time, the Eagles need to find a way to incorporate their second-round pick over a player who has produced next to nothing for the better part of the month. During this three-week span, Arcega-Whiteside has played just 13 offensive snaps.
“As a player, as a competitor, you want to go out there and compete, no matter if it’s a game, video game, school, whatever, you want to compete,” Arcega-Whiteside said on Tuesday. “So, yeah, in a way it is [frustrating]. But I’m bought into this team and the coaching staff. Whatever their plan is, I know it’s going to be best for the team.”
It’s not that I don’t understand the Eagles’ reasoning for Arcega-Whiteside’s lack of playing time. I get their point (and I’ll explain shortly), but their reasoning just isn’t good enough for me.
I don’t even know how much Arcega-Whiteside would help right now — in the two games he played a lot, he didn’t do much — but the Eagles have to be willing to find out. This is a second-round pick we’re talking about. Theoretically, this guy has enough talent to at least contribute more than the near-goose-egg they’ve been getting from Hollins.
The Eagles’ reasoning, by the way, is this: Arcega-Whiteside’s primary position in their offense is at X receiver. That makes him Alshon Jeffery’s backup. Hollins is the top backup at the Z position, where Jackson played before his abdominal injury.
When Arcega-Whiteside got to Philly in the spring and then in the summer, he played the X receiver position exclusively, but he has been cross training at the other spots more recently. Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh admitted that Arcega-Whiteside is still catching up most at the Z.
When asked how long it would take for Arcega-Whiteside to learn the position to the point where the Eagles feel comfortable enough to put him in a game there, Groh said he didn’t have a timetable.
But how long can it really take?
Couldn’t they at least get him a few snaps at the position here or there?
Groh, to his credit, really did try to explain it as well as he could on Tuesday. When Jeffery missed time with his calf injury a few weeks ago, Arcega-Whiteside’s focus during those practices was to play the X; the cross-training halted.
“So learning a new position and not getting any reps at it is tough as a rookie player,” Groh said.
At least Groh’s explanation made more sense than the one Doug Pederson gave at his press conference on Monday:
“We've just been in a lot more 12 personnel. That’s just what it is. To answer your question, I guess yes, we could put him in there more. We could.”
Pederson always touts the versatility of his receivers. He wants all of his receivers to know every position so he can move them around the field. This would be a chance to show off that versatility.
For what it’s worth, Arcega-Whiteside was supposed to factor into the game plan more in the game two weeks ago, but the opposing defense was showing a much different look in the game compared to the tape. All those plays for the rookie were wiped out once the game started.
What has really made Arcega-Whiteside’s lack of production and playing time even more frustrating is the level to which other rookie receivers around the league have been contributing this season.
Take a look at Arcega-Whiteside’s production compared to some receivers drafted after him in the spring:
Arcega-Whiteside: 2 catches, 14 yards
Parris Campbell: 10 catches, 62 yards, 1 touchdown
D.K. Metcalf: 16 catches, 336 yards, 2 touchdowns
Diontae Johnson: 20 catches, 212 yards, 2 touchdowns
Terry McLaurin: 23 catches, 408 yards, 5 touchdowns
Hunter Renfrow: 12 catches, 101 yards
Darius Clayton: 12 catches, 189 yards, 1 touchdown
KeeSean Johnson: 16 catches, 145 yards
Arcega-Whiteside was pretty honest when asked if it bothered him to look around the league and see other rookies having bigger roles for their respective teams.
“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t,” he said. “At the same time, I can’t worry about what anybody else is doing. They’re in different situations than I’m in.”
That’s true. But maybe the Eagles should consider changing Arcega-Whiteside’s situation pretty soon. At least give him a chance to produce.
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