Rookie receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside spent most of last week on scout team, helping the Eagles’ defense prepare for Julio Jones.
He didn’t expect to have a huge role in the offensive game plan.
That changed in a hurry.
With Alshon Jeffery (calf), DeSean Jackson (groin) and Dallas Goedert (calf) knocked out of the Falcons game early, the Eagles told Arcega-Whiteside pretty early, “you’re going to play the rest of the game.” He ended up playing 75 offensive snaps in the Eagles’ 24-20 loss after basically no practice reps during the week.
This week, with Jeffery and Jackson still nursing their injuries, the Eagles will spend their upcoming practices getting Arceaga-Whiteside prepared for an expanded role Sunday. Mike Groh said he expects the rookie to take more of a “primary role” in practice until they learn more about Jeffery’s status.
“I mean, I’m ready,” the second-round pick said. “That’s what I dream about. That’s why I’m here, to help this team win.”
With little practice time last week, Arcega-Whiteside’s expanded role didn’t go extremely well in Week 1. While he played 75 snaps, more than any receiver other than Nelson Agholor, his production lacked. He had just one catch on four targets and it went for four yards.
Remember, there was a point on Sunday — when Agholor was getting checked for a concussion — that Arcega-Whiteside was the top receiver on the depth chart.
So what happened on the passes his way that weren’t complete?
“Me and Carson haven’t ran those (plays), like, ever, together,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “So that kind of showed a little bit. … That’s just going out to practice and working it. We’re not even worried about it because we know once we get that timing down, it’s over.”
Groh called this play from late in the second quarter a “very good example” of how timing between a QB and receiver can be off without enough practice time together.
This was the play Mike Groh called "a very good example" of timing being off between Wentz and JJAW after limited practice reps together. pic.twitter.com/uceSuoJ4At
This was the play Mike Groh called "a very good example" of timing being off between Wentz and JJAW after limited practice reps together. pic.twitter.com/uceSuoJ4At— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) September 17, 2019
Groh said he wasn’t sure how many times Arcega-Whiteside had gotten practice reps in that play, but knows he wouldn’t have been their primary player for that route. This week, Wentz will get a chance to work with Arcega-Whiteside and they can tailor a game plan with the understanding that they’ll be shorthanded.
The production wasn’t great from Arcega-Whiteside, but he said he did feel the game slow down for him as it went on and he thinks those game reps will be valuable. And Jeffery was with him every step of the way. He said his veteran teammate, who he’ll likely replace Sunday, was the first one to greet him after drives and even coached him during the game when Arcega-Whiteside lined on the Eagles’ side of the field.
“Going into this weekend now, it depends on what the game plan is,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “They haven’t given us the game plan yet. Once we know what that is, we can start focusing more on that and individually how we’re going to handle it.”
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