Eagles

Eagles need to find out exactly what they have in JJ Arcega-Whiteside

Eagles need to find out exactly what they have in JJ Arcega-Whiteside

For most teams, it wouldn’t have been a huge deal. Guy makes a catch. Big whoop.

For this team? It was monumental.

For any wide receiver on the post-DeSean Jackson 2019 Eagles to record a 29-yard reception, that’s a rarity.

For a rookie who we’re all waiting to see something positive from, it was virtually historic.

Rookie second-round pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who had just two catches for 14 yards to show for his first nine NFL games, had a big 29-yarder in the fourth quarter of the Eagles-Patriots game Sunday at the Linc.

To put that into context, it was the fourth-longest reception by an Eagles wide receiver in the post-Jackson Era (since Week 2).

“The game, everything kind of slowed down, definitely, knowing the plays and getting a little more experience here and there,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “But every day you’ve got to learn from your mistakes. I definitely did some good things, but I’m sure there’s some mistakes in there, too.”

Arcega-Whiteside has been one of the biggest mysteries on the team this year.

Why was a rookie who had such a promising preseason unable to get on the field while the rest of the Eagles’ wide receivers sputtered and struggled?

He played 128 snaps against the Falcons and Lions, when Alshon Jeffery was hurt, then got just 43 snaps — with no catches — over the next six weeks.

With Jeffery sidelined again, Arcega-Whiteside got 19 snaps Sunday, his most since Week 3.

He had a nine-yard catch in the first quarter that was wiped out by a penalty, then early in the fourth quarter made a nice grab for 29 yards on a 1st-and-10 from the Eagles’ 6-yard-line, getting the Eagles out of the soup.

Believe it or not, that was the 4th-longest catch this year against the Patriots, the longest by a rookie.

That was Arcega-Whiteside's only catch in the Eagles' 17-10 loss, but it was definitely an encouraging step.

The Eagles are desperate for anything from their wide receivers. Any positive sign is huge.

Just with that one 29-yard catch, Arcega-Whiteside had more yards than Nelson Agholor in five of Agholor's last seven games and more catches than Mack Hollins has in his last six games.

Small steps.

“There were some times where I got open, there were some times I didn’t get open and I’ve got to look at it and learn from it and see how I can get better,” he said. “No matter how big or small the play is you’ve just got to build off each play and learn from the ones that don’t go your way, because the second you get complacent, bad things happen.”

Arcega-Whiteside’s catch was the longest by an Eagles rookie wide receiver since Hollins had a 64-yarder against the Redskins in 2017.

“Making plays feels good,” he said. “They feel better when you win, but every day just stack it, build off of this and keep it going. Just build off every success, learn from every failure and get better.”

You would think Arcega-Whitside has earned some more playing time. How do you not play this kid?

He’s got the size, he’s got the hands, he's got the ball control, and he’s getting more and more comfortable in the offense.

The Eagles need to find out exactly what they have in Arcega-Whiteside. Because there's a decent chance it's more than we're seeing from anybody else.



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Eagles' lack of young talent glaring in ESPN ranking

Eagles' lack of young talent glaring in ESPN ranking

Back in May, I wrote about the Eagles’ alarming lack of young talent. I ranked the Eagles’ top-10 players under 25 and as you can see the list drops off quickly once you get past Miles Sanders at No. 1.

The Eagles have reached the playoffs the last three years and won a Super Bowl in 2017 with a veteran roster, but Howie Roseman went to great lengths this offseason to re-stock the roster with talented young players. But just about every one of them comes with a giant question mark. 

People have noticed.

ESPN on Monday released an analytics-driven ranking of the under-25 talent on each of the 32 NFL teams, and the Eagles finished 29th, ahead of only the Vikings in 30th, the Patriots in 31st and the Falcons in 32nd.

The No. 29 ranking is actually an improvement over last year’s No. 32 ranking.

And while the analysis was flawed in one way and kind of ridiculous in another, the piece does correctly illustrate the concerning absence of proven young talent on the Eagles’ roster.

One absurdity in the ESPN piece: The Eagles are one of three teams listed with no so-called “blue-chip” players under 25.

Last we checked, Sanders is 23.

Sanders led all NFL rookies last year with 1,327 scrimmage yards, was 9th in the NFL in rushing average and had the 12th-most catches of all NFL running backs yet wasn’t one of 79 players listed as a blue-chipper.

That’s just silly.

Another absurdity: In explaining why the Eagles improved from 32nd to 29th, the piece credits the Eagles’ success with players drafted in “later rounds” of the draft and uses Sidney Jones as an example. But Jones was a 2nd-round pick and played more than 3 snaps in only two of the Eagles’ last nine games.

But despite the piece’s flaws, it does correctly highlight a general lack of young, proven talent on the roster.

As of now, the Eagles have only four slam-dunk projected under-25 starters: Sanders along with Andre Dillard, Derek Barnett and Avonte Maddox, who are all 24. T.J. Edwards, who is 24, is a likely starter, and either 23-year-old J.J. Arcega-Whiteside or 21-year-old Jalen Reagor will likely start as well.

For the sake of comparison, the Giants rank second in the ESPN piece after being No. 5 last year. They are listed with five “blue-chip” players under 25 (Will Hernandez, Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, Dexter Lawrence and Andrew Thomas). 

Washington is No. 11 with five blue-chippers (Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Daron Payne, Dwayne Haskins, Terry McLaurin).

And the Cowboys are No. 24 with four blue-chippers (Leighton Vander Esch, Connor Williams, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb).

The five teams with the most under-25 talent according to the piece are the Ravens, Giants, Cards, Bills and 49ers.

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The Cre'Von LeBlanc conundrum and more in Roob's 10 Eagles Observations

The Cre'Von LeBlanc conundrum and more in Roob's 10 Eagles Observations

 

The hidden value of Jason Avant, a ridiculous Kevin Curtis stat and the Cre’Von LeBlanc conundrum.

That’s just a taste of what lies ahead in this week’s Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Observations! 

1. Bringing Jason Avant in as part of the NFL’s minority coaching internship program is a really under-rated move. A few people complained on Twitter that it makes no sense to bring in one of the slowest receivers to work with this group of speedy receivers. But that’s exactly why it makes sense. Because it takes a lot more than just speed to make it as a WR, and Avant is proof of that. Jason’s 40 time at the 2006 Combine was 4.62, which ranked 38th out of 41 WRs who ran that year. Yet he went on to catch 346 passes for 4,118 yards in 10 seasons and was one of the NFL’s most dependable slots for a decade. Avant is here because although you can’t teach speed, you can teach everything else: “I was a technical receiver,” Avant said on the Eagles’ web site. “I wasn't the fastest receiver. I wasn't the biggest guy. I was able to get open by getting off the line of scrimmage and being precise. That's what I hope to help teach these receivers. It's just not about speed and movement.” Great move.

2. Speaking of slow receivers at the 2006 Combine … nobody in NFL history had more 85-yard touchdown catches than Hank Baskett, who ran a 4.50 at that same 2006 Combine. Hank had two in 2006 and one in 2008. In NFL history, only Cliff Branch, Bob Hayes, John Taylor and Wesley Walker had as many 85-yard TDs as Baskett, who was undrafted. Baskett had as many TD catches of at least 85 yards from 2006 through 2008 as every other Eagle has combined over the last 30 years.  

3. The last Eagles WR with consecutive 100-yard games: Jordan Matthews vs. the Cards and Redskins in 2015. Since then, 52 different NFL receivers from 29 other teams have had back-to-back 100-yard games.

4. It sure seems like Avonte Maddox will get the first crack at CB2 opposite Darius Slay, with Sidney Jones backing him up. And it sure seems like Nickell Robey-Coleman will get the first crack at the slot. If I were Jim Schwartz I’d make sure I found ways to get Cre’Von LeBlanc on the field. The guy is active, tough, smart, physical and instinctive. Good things happen when he plays. I don’t know where he fits in, but Schwartz and d-backs coach Marquand Manuel need to make sure he DOES fit in.

5. Misleading stats can be fun. Here’s one: Kevin Curtis averaged more yards per game in his Eagle career (56.3) than Harold Carmichael (49.9).

6. I wrote about 5-time Pro Bowler Jimmy Smith the other day in my piece on 10 great NFL players who began their careers in obscurity with the Eagles. How much of a difference would Smith have made if the Eagles kept him instead of Jeff Sydner at the end of 1994 training camp? From 1999 through 2005 - the seven years where Smith and Donovan McNabb were both in the league - Smith had 8,249 receiving yards. During the same span, the Eagles’ leading receiver was Todd Pinkston, with 2,816 yards. Imagine how much would have been different if Kotite had seen the greatness of Jimmy Smith staring him right in his face? 

7. We talk all the time about how incredible Nick Foles was in the 2017 playoffs, but right along with his remarkable performance is the fact that he dropped back 108 times and was sacked twice - once in the Falcons game and once in the Vikings game. Foles’ 971 passing yards in the 2017 postseason are the most in NFL history by a QB who was sacked two or fewer times. Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks were the heart of that o-line, but Big V and Stefen Wisniewski were both huge during that run as well.

8. From the Be Careful What You Wish For Department: In the summer of 1971, there was a kicking competition in Eagles training camp between incumbent Mark Moseley, who the fans were furious with after his 27-yard miss cost the Eagles a 1970 win over the Falcons, and rookie 4th-round pick Happy Feller, the overwhelming fan favorite. “‘I’ll probably go out there to kick and the fans will all want to see Happy,” Moseley told Chuck Newman in the Aug. 13, 1971, Inquirer, before the first home preseason game of 1971. “Maybe they’ll boo, but that’s their privilege. The fans have their favorites.” As it turned out, the Eagles kept Feller and released Moseley. Feller went on to go 6-for-20 on field goal attempts in 1971, and that 30 percent accuracy is the worst in the NFL in the last 50 years. Feller spent a couple years with the Saints and made 37 percent of his career field goals. Nobody else in the NFL over the last 50 years has been under 50 percent. Moseley kicked in the NFL for 17 years and was a two-time Pro Bowler.

9. Crazy that there are more assistant coaches than players still with the Eagles from the Chip Kelly Era. Six coaches, two players. And there are more players remaining that Andy Reid brought in (five) than Chip brought in (two). And there isn’t a single player from either the 2014 or 2015 drafts still in the organization.

10. Need more evidence of Duce Staley’s ability to get the most out of his players? Since 2015, the Eagles are the only NFL team that hasn’t had a running back with 200 carries in a season. During that five-year period, Duce has made do with an ever-changing rotation of DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Josh Adams one year, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement and Boston Scott. Yet with that unsettled group of young unproven backs and veterans at the end of their career, the Eagles are 9th in the NFL in rushing during that five-year span. Of that group, Murray, Blount, Ajayi, Sproles and Mathews are all out of the league. 

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