EAGLES

Evaluating all Eagles wide receivers in training camp so far

EAGLES

The Eagles don't have a wide receiver with 100 career catches. All their receivers combined have 187 career catches. None are older than 26.

This is a young, inexperienced, unproven group, and not surprisingly it's been an uneven summer for most of them.

It hasn't helped that just about all of them have missed some practice time with injuries or illnesses. Nothing serious, and DeVonta Smith should be back soon. But it hasn't helped.

The Eagles could add a veteran at some point, but after drafting five WRs the last three years - three in the first two rounds - they seem inclined so far to see what the young guys have.

After nine days of practice, here's what we've seen: 

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside: In a pivotal season for the one-time 2nd-round pick, JJAW hasn’t really done anything of note so far in camp. He actually was very good in training camp last year, using his big frame and good hands to catch 50-50 balls, but we haven't seen it this year. JJAW has been working primarily out of the slot this summer, which doesn’t really match up with his skill set, and the results haven’t been there. You get the sense the Eagles don’t really know what to do with Arcega-Whiteside, so they’re trying anything. He’s putting in the work, but the production hasn’t been there yet.

Jhamon Ausbon: An undrafted rookie free agent from Texas A&M, Ausbon has good size at 6-2, 215 pounds, and he’s made some plays here and there. Ausbon opted out last year but was pretty good in 2019, with 66-for-872 and five TDs. He ran a 4.71 at A&M’s pro day, which is world-class slow and why he didn’t get drafted. Is he really that slow? Nah. He’s no blazer but he doesn't look slow-footed on the field. For the most part, he’s made the catches that he should make. Possible practice squad material.

 

Hakeem Butler: The Eagles still list Butler as a tight end, but he’s played wide receiver all summer. Butler was once a pretty good prospect – he was 60-for-1,318 with 9 TDs and 22 yards per catch for Iowa State in 2018 and the Cards’ 4th-round pick in 2019. But he’s played only one lifetime offensive snap, and that was a crucial 4th-quarter 4th-down play against the Giants last year when he was targeted (unsuccessfully) in the end zone. Butler caught a couple passes Saturday but overall it’s been a very uneventful camp for the 6-5, 225-pounder.

Travis Fulgham: Because he doesn’t have elite speed, Fulgham isn't going to run away from any cornerbacks. So his production has to come by using his big frame to go up and body defenders and high point the ball. Fulgham looks good running routes against Darius Slay and Steve Nelson, and he's gotten his hands on a ton of balls so far, but he just hasn’t been able to finish the play. He’s had opportunities for a couple really good catches every day at practice, but he just hasn't been able to finish. They’re not quite drops, but they are plays he needs to make if he’s going to be a factor. He needs to be better.

John Hightower: Hightower was up and down before he suffered a significant groin injury during practice on Thursday. He’s listed as week-to-week, and that’s not good for a late-round pick who needed a big camp to secure a spot on the 53. The kid has some talent and we know he’s world-class fast, but if he misses more than a couple weeks he’s going to make it very hard for himself to stick. At worst the Eagles could IR him to start the season and try to get him onto the practice squad when he’s healthy.

Andre Patton: Patton actually hasn’t been bad since the Eagles signed him on July 29. He’s a big target at 6-4, 200, and he seems to know the offense well for a guy who just came in. It can’t hurt that he played under Shane Steichen with the Chargers in 2019. Patton played in 13 games that year – he caught six passes for 56 yards – so he’s got a little experience. He’s essentially camp legs at this point but could work himself into the practice squad equation if he produces in the preseason games.

 

Jalen Reagor: Slow start with the failed physical but has started to improve. Everybody saw the circus catch he made on Darius Slay on Thursday, but he’s gotten gradually better since returning to practice. You’d like a 22-year-old second-year 1st-round pick to really shine on a consistent basis, but that hasn’t happened yet. Reagor has had moments but not the consistent production you want. With DeVonta Smith out, this is a good chance for Reagor to show what kind of player he is. Doing better but not where he needs to be.

DeVonta Smith: Before he got hurt a week ago Saturday, Smith was clearly the best wide receiver in camp, which you would expect considering his credentials. This is important time he’s missing and all the film study and work on the JUGS machine doesn’t replace reps. Smith looks like he’s close to returning, and if he’s back soon – maybe the first practice after the Steelers game? – that would really help both him and Jalen Hurts, whose play has been uneven since losing his favorite receiver.

Michael Walker: Walker is another one of those “camp legs” guys. He was only had 71-for-847 in his entire college career at Boston College, where he was mainly a returner. Walker spent some time with the Jaguars in 2019 – he caught three passes for 15 yards as a rookie. Walker hasn’t done anything to stand out so far at camp, and at 5-11, 190 pounds, he remains the longest of longshots. 

Greg Ward: Not surprisingly, Ward has been very good in camp. At 26 and with 81 career receptions, he’s the veteran of the group, and the consistency and leadership he provides on and off the field are desperately needed in such a young WR room. Ward isn’t going to make a ton of splash plays, but he knows how to get open and doesn’t drop passes. Ward is the only WR on the roster with more than 40 career receptions, and he's got good chemistry with Jalen Hurts. Just a solid guy.

Quez Watkins: Kind of odd that a 23-year-old second-year 6th-round pick with seven career receptions has been the Eagles’ best WR this summer, but that’s the case. Watkins, who flashed last year when given a chance late in the season, has really been the only one of the young WRs that’s caught the ball consistently and shown explosion with the ball in his hands (not counting Smith, who has only practiced three days so far). Can Watkins be more than a speed guy? He’s got a chance.

Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast:

Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | Watch on YouTube