As Howie Roseman excitedly talked his way through the Eagles list of skill players, he took a little extra time on J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.
In fact, on the WIP Morning Show Tuesday, Roseman said JJAW this training camp finally looked like the guy the Eagles thought they were drafting last year.
That would be big.
“J.J. looks different. He does,” Roseman said. “I know some of you guys have seen practice. He looks different, he looks like the guy we drafted.
“You know, there was one play in training camp where there was a deep ball and he was able to just box out like he was a freaking rebounder. He’s Joel Embiid down in the box, boxing these guys out. And that’s what he did. But he’s also got better lower body flexibility than he did before."
That’s what the Eagles thought they were getting when they drafted Arcega-Whiteside with the 57th pick out of Stanford last season.
Remember, Arcega-Whiteside is the son of two professional basketball players and he himself was a McDonald’s All-America nominee. He could hoop. And his skillset was in the vein of Alshon Jeffery and other big-bodied receivers who can go up and snag 50-50 balls. That’s what he did in college when he caught 23 touchdowns as a junior and senior, but it didn’t translate as a rookie.
He noticed that too.
“Shoot, in college I think I had about 10 touchdowns just putting my body on people and jump balling,” Arcega-Whiteside said earlier this summer. “You can still do that in NFL but it's not as easy, so I had to learn new some new tricks, some new techniques, to be able to get myself open and -- still get in those same positions, but you know, it's not like I could just run up to them and body them up, I got to do different things.
“Also the scheme helps, too, being able to run some different routes, running some ins, running some outs, running some stops, so then they're like, 'All right, he can go anywhere and, and then when I do put my body on the defender and get that jump ball, then they're not thinking 'Oh yeah, it's the jump ball coming all the time,' he has to play more honest.”
It really is fair to say Arcega-Whiteside looked different and better during the 2020 training camp. He did; I saw it.
But it’s also fair to say that JJAW needs to play that way when games matter because his rookie season was an abject disappointment. Skepticism is warranted just as much as optimism.
I wrote about that a little over a week ago. Everyone, including Arcega-Whiteside himself, have said he’s a different player going into Year 2 … but it’s time for Arcega-Whiteside to prove it when games matter.
Meanwhile, there’s some building optimism that Jalen Reagor will be ready in Week 2, which would minimize Arcega-Whiteside’s role after one game. But just having him be a reliable rotational receiver would be a big improvement over what he did last year.