Every few weeks, as per NFL media rules, the Eagles’ position coaches are made available to the beat writers who cover the team, and Tuesday was our first chance to talk to receivers coach Carson Walch since the Eagles’ position-wide slump began.
The Eagles wide receivers, picked universally as one of the top wideout groups in the NFL coming into the season, have been a disaster since DeSean Jackson first suffered an abdominal injury early in the Week 2 loss to the Falcons.
The entire group has regressed to the point where none of the receivers has more than 353 yards through nine games, no wide receiver has caught a TD pass longer than six yards in the last six games, the entire group is averaging 72 yards combined over the last six weeks and two of the team’s top four wideouts don't have a reception since September.
So without editorial comment, here’s excerpts of our conversation Monday with Walch, the Eagles’ fifth receivers coach in the last five years:
How's Alshon playing?
“He’s playing good football. I think at any point in the season if you say someone’s going to be perfect game in and game out, you’re not going to get that. But he’s prepared every single week. He battles through the weekly injuries like any NFL player does, gets his body right every single week, but mentally he’s in a good spot and we have all the confidence in the world in Alshon, I think everyone can say that about the guy.”
Why has the group failed to perform at a high level?
“I don’t look at statistics, all we talk about is winning football games. That’s A-1 for us, how do we find ways to win football games, and we’ve done that the last two weeks against very good defenses, but at no point will I say in front of anyone that our group is satisfied with where we’re at. Every day we come in with a plan how we’re going to get better, our guys own it, I own it as a coach, and our goal is to win one game this week.”
Have the receivers met your expectations?
“Certain games they have, yeah, certain games we haven’t as a group. Our goal each week is to go out and play a great football game. We know it’s not going to be perfect. It’s football, it’s the NFL, there’s great coaches on each side of the ball, but each week we do have a standard and there’s been certain weeks we haven’t met that standard and we’ve got to get that right.
How much do you miss DeSean?
“We’re not going to go in the tank because one guy can’t play for the weeks to come. I think it’s a challenge for a lot of guys in the room: ‘Hey, it might be my time now to step in and do the job.’ … Does it hurt to lose DeSean Jackson? Absolutely. I think we can all answer that question. He’s a prolific player in our building, he’s a prolific player in the NFL, and he’s done it for a really long time, so of course it’s going to hurt.”
How do you hit deep balls without him?
“I think it’s just a work in progress. I truly believe that. We have hit some deep balls down the field. Have we hit every one? No. Have we hit all the ones we wanted to hit? No. But all we can do is continue to go back to the drawing board each week, continue to rep and get more throws with our guys with the quarterback, and we’ll get it done. It’s DeSean’s forte, we all know that. He’s got more than anyone else in the history of the league. It’s hard to replace that.”
Why hasn't 2nd-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside made an impact?
“J.J.’s ready. He’s cross-trained now. He knows the X position, he knows the Z position and if it came down to it he could probably play the F position. He’s in a good place right now. He’s positive, he feels good about where he’s at in the offense, so yes, I do anticipate him getting some snaps as we go.”
Why hasn't Mack Hollins caught a pass since Week 4?
“I don’t think there’s a direct reason. I know production is a word that’s getting thrown around a lot. Production as a player to me isn’t just how many catches you have in a given week. Each guy on our team has a role and right now Mack Hollins has done a very good job at his role, and a lot of it is blocking, but he’s running all the routes we’re asking him to run, he’s getting to his depth and when the ball comes to Mack he’ll make a play for us.
How's Nelson Agholor playing?
“He’s doing very well. He works harder than everybody in the room. He’s a great young man, he’s prepared every single week, and he made two great catches last week (3-for-21). Off-target catches. Went down and made a great play on both of them and we’re excited about the rest of the season.”