'I have to make the play' — JJ Arcega-Whiteside discusses dropped 4th-down pass

'I have to make the play' — JJ Arcega-Whiteside discusses dropped 4th-down pass

When the Eagles selected JJ Arcega-Whiteside in the second round of the NFL draft, the attribute that stood out was his penchant for making contested catches.

But when it came time to do exactly that on Sunday, the ball slipped through Arcega-Whiteside’s fingers — along with the game.

“It’s the moment you ask for and dream about,” Arcega-Whiteside. “I’ve gotta make that play.”

Arcega-Whiteside is hardly to blame for the Eagles’ 27-24 Week 3 loss to the Lions at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday (see observations). He was far from the only receiver to drop a pass, nor did he commit a costly penalty or turnover like several of his offensive teammates.

Still, it was Arcega-Whiteside who found himself in one-on-one coverage on 4th-and-15 with 45 seconds to play, and it was Arcega-Whiteside who went airborne over Lions defensive back Rashaan Melvin for about as clean a look at a game-winning Hail Mary as the Eagles could hope.

“There’s no other assessment other than I’ve gotta go get it,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “Tight coverage, I was gonna elevate expecting contact. There really was no contact and the ball just kind of ended up right there.

“I have to make the play.”

Melvin was certainly in the play. At the very least, his hands were in the receiver’s face, and Arcega-Whiteside didn’t have the size advantage he would enjoy over a lot of defensive backs, as both list 6-foot-2.

“I saw 10 other guys doing their job on the football field and I didn’t want to be the 11th one not doing his job,” Melvin said.

Even forgiving a desperation, jump ball scenario in the closing moments, Arcega-Whiteside wasn’t much of a factor the other 59. The rookie was targeted three times total, finishing with one reception for 10 yards.

With Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson both missing the game because of injury, and tight end Dallas Goedert limited as well, the Eagles could’ve used more from the 22-year-old.

“The whole game you’re thinking, ‘Stay locked in, stay focused, you never know when it’s gonna come,’ and for me, it came on the very last play,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “I’m not saying I wasn’t focused or ready for it, but same time, you’ve gotta go out there and beef it up, and I didn’t.”

To his credit, Arcega-Whiteside took ownership of the situation, standing in front of a full media throng at his locker immediately after the game and answering tough questions.

“If you ask me personally if I did enough, I don’t want to hold myself to any standard that’s lower than what I believe I’m capable of doing,” Arcega-Whiteside said. "I’ve got great wide receivers in that meeting room that I want to play like and hold myself to their standards.

“It’s not good enough, but the beauty of it is it always gets better and that’s going to be the mentality for this week.”

Chosen 57th overall, Arcega-Whiteside wasn’t necessarily expected to be thrust into a huge role this early, and he wouldn’t be the first wideout to struggle in that spot.

At the same time, some will argue the ball that came his way in the fourth quarter is a catch any player needs to make, regardless of experience level or knowledge of the offense.

“That’s why we’re here, to make contested catches,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “You gotta go out there and do it.”

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Eagles release linebacker Zach Brown

Eagles release linebacker Zach Brown

Three days after linebacker Zach Brown called Kirk Cousins “the weakest part” of the Vikings’ offense and one day after Cousins threw four touchdowns against the Eagles, the Eagles parted ways with Brown.

The Eagles signed the one-time Pro Bowler this past offseason to a one-year, $1.4 million contract, but he played only six games and made virtually no impact. He was credited with 29 tackles and two pass breakups.

The move came after head coach Doug Pederson met with the media earlier in the day and without comment. Pederson is not scheduled to meet with the media again until Wednesday.

The Brown signing was a big deal when the Eagles signed him in May. He was expected to help offset the departure of Jordan Hicks, who signed with the Cards.

Brown’s $1 million base salary and $400,000 signing bonus were guaranteed.

The move doesn't affect the Eagles' salary cap since Brown was playing on a one-year deal and his base and signing bonus were both guaranteed.

How much of the move was related to Brown’s ridiculous trash-talking last week, which backfired in embarrassing fashion, and how much was related to his nondescript level of play isn’t clear.

But the timing of the move is very unusual for a starting player and indicates there were important factors in play that led to the move beyond his performance on the field.

It's reminiscent of the Eagles releasing Jason Babin 11 games into the nightmarish 2012 season one year after he had 18 sacks.

Whoever winds up signing Brown will be his fifth team in the last five years.

Brown played 271 snaps in the Eagles’ first six games, second most of any linebacker behind Bradham’s 352.

The Eagles, who released cornerback Ryan Lewis earlier in the day, do have two open roster spots. One is expected to go to Jalen Mills, and the other would likely be a linebacker.

Former CFL star Alex Singleton, who had such a strong training camp, is on the practice squad and would be an obvious choice to replace Brown on the active roster.

With Nigel Bradham dealing with an ankle injury he suffered Sunday in Minnesota, the only healthy linebackers currently on the roster are Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry, undrafted rookie T.J. Edwards and recent acquisition Duke Riley. Edwards has played only 12 defensive snaps this year — 10 of them in garbage time Sunday — and Riley hasn't played any.

Brown, who turns 30 next week, is in his eighth season. He was originally a second-round pick of the Titans in 2012 and spent four years with Tennessee, one Pro Bowl season with the Bills and two years with the Redskins before joining the Eagles.

The only news Brown made during his stay in Philadelphia was when he ripped Cousins, his former teammate with the Redskins.

After Cousins and the Vikings embarrassed the Eagles on Sunday, Brown declined to talk about it or apologize for his remarks.

The Vikings' Twitter account didn't hesitate to mock Brown after the game, although it did slightly misquote him.

Not the legacy anybody expected when the Eagles signed Brown.

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Eagles make move that seems to indicate a Jalen Mills return

Eagles make move that seems to indicate a Jalen Mills return

The Eagles on Monday afternoon made a move that seems to be a good sign Jalen Mills will return this week. 

A few hours after Doug Pederson said he expects Mills to practice this week, the Eagles waived cornerback Ryan Lewis, possibly to create a roster spot for Mills. 

Mills, 25, is still on the Physically Unable to Perform list with a foot injury that has kept him out nearly a year, but should practice this week and could be ready to assume a role on defense this Sunday night in Dallas. 

“We’re going to incorporate Jalen Mills a little bit this week in practice, we’ll see where he’s at at the end of the week and if he’s capable maybe there’s an opportunity there (for him to play),” Pederson said.

If Mills returns to practice this week, the Eagles will have three weeks to either add him to the active roster or place him on Injured Reserve. It looks like he’s clearly coming back to the Eagles’ roster and it seems like it will happen sooner rather than later. 

But even if Mills plays this Sunday, don’t expect him to have a huge role. He hasn’t played in a game since Oct. 28 last year in London. The Eagles will need to bring him back slowly. 

In addition to Mills, Ronald Darby (hamstring) is also expected to practice this week. While Mills and Darby aren’t saviors, they should at least help a secondary that was completely gashed by Kirk Cousins in Minnesota this past weekend. 

Lewis, 25, was signed to the Eagles’ practice squad on Oct. 1 and was called up on Oct. 4. He played 43 special teams snaps during his two weeks on the Eagles’ active roster. The Eagles’ practice squad is full at 10, but if Lewis clears waivers, he’s a candidate to return in that capacity.

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