Before the Eagles parted ways for the summer, rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside wanted to ask his veteran teammates where he should train, who he should train with and what he should be doing over the next six weeks. But all the vets kept giving him the same advice: go on vacation.
So he went on vacation.
Before training in the heat of Dallas with Alshon Jeffery for about a month, the rookie receiver spent a week relaxing on the island of Maui. Palm trees, beaches and waterfalls have a way of taking your mind off of football. At least a little bit.
“It’s hard to not think about [football],” Arcega-Whiteside said. “But definitely shut down a little bit and just relaxed, watched the sunrise and sunset and laid on the beach all day.”
Overthinking is something that can plague young players. They don’t want to make mistakes and sometimes they allow that fear to paralyze them. The opposite happened on Thursday night, when Arcega-Whiteside reeled in his first NFL touchdown catch.
I was thinking right before that route, ‘I’m just gonna go play fast on this one and see what happens.’ And exactly what we’ve been practicing, training happened. I was able to get open and score a touchdown. I’m pretty thankful for that.
"I was thinking right before that route, ‘I’m just gonna go play fast on this one and see what happens.’ And exactly what we’ve been practicing, training happened. I was able to get open and score a touchdown. I’m pretty thankful for that." -- JJAW pic.twitter.com/H5vHn37YvQ— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) August 23, 2019
Overall, Thursday night’s game against the Ravens was a breakout performance for Arcega-Whiteside. He caught eight passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, becoming the first Eagles receiver to go over 100 yards in a preseason game since Jordan Matthews in 2014.
The 22-year-old showed off a bunch of the traits that made him a second-round pick in April.
• There was the way he used his big frame to make a tough catch in the middle of the field:
“Sometimes for me, I just have to think I’m 220-225 [pounds],” he said. “I’m gonna get hit but I’m not gonna get smacked. Hopefully that doesn’t happen now that I said that. When the ball’s in the air, it’s yours, you gotta go get it. That’s gotta be your mentality.”
• There was the way he caught a ball off his shoestrings on an under-thrown pass from Josh McCown, showing off his focus on concentration.
"I caught it and I was waiting for them to blow it dead. I was like ‘dang, I guess it didn’t touch the ground.’" -- Arcega-Whiteside pic.twitter.com/VtrmjMmhSL— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) August 23, 2019
• And there was the 4th-and-2 he caught and turned into a big-gainer of 35 yards.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside isn't what you think of when you think YAC, but he always has a plan and he's instinctive to go along with his speed. pic.twitter.com/bVvZmtB7t9— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) August 23, 2019
Arcega-Whiteside ran a 4.49 time in the 40-yard dash at the Stanford pro day at 225 pounds. He can scoot.
“Me and Josh started getting rolling for a second,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “It just felt like whatever ball he threw to me, I was going to catch it. I was confident to know that we were going to do something good.”
After Thursday’s game, both Doug Pederson and McCown praised Arcega-Whiteside’s work ethic. It’s clear in the months he’s been with the team, he’s already been winning over his teammates on and off the field.
Based on his performance in training camp and now in preseason games, Arcega-Whiteside can probably help this year, but it’s a stacked receiver room. He’s clearly behind Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor in the receiver pecking order, but he still wants to contribute.
“I want to come out here and have a big role and help the team win games,” he said. “I’m not here to just sit behind somebody all year. At the same time, I do realize these guys are superstars. They’re the best of the best. I’m happy that I get to be next to them.”
And he’s happy to take their advice.
Even if it means going on vacation and escaping for a week. By the way, he’d recommend Maui for a little relaxation. And on a soggy night in Philadelphia, that didn’t sound too bad.
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