DeSean should be back Sunday. Alshon is probably a week away. Jalen Reagor is eligible to return from Injured Reserve on Monday. Travis Fulgham sure isn’t going anywhere. Neither is Greg Ward. The Eagles clearly like what John Hightower brings.
Where does it all leave J.J. Arcega-Whiteside?
Quite possibly done here.
Arcega-Whiteside’s short-term and long-term future as an Eagle both appear ominous considering the current state of Eagles receivers.
When all the injured guys get back, JJAW would be at-best the Eagles’ seventh receiver and possibly eighth, depending on how they feel about Quez Watkins.
The Eagles usually have five receivers active on game day, and with everyone healthy Jackson, Jeffery, Reagor, Fulgham and Ward are all locks to be up.
What if they kept six up? If it came down to Hightower or JJAW, consider this: Hightower played 48 snaps on Sunday in Pittsburgh and Arcega-Whiteside played eight.
Which tells you exactly what the Eagles think.
In fact, JJAW’s snap count has gone steadily down, from 28 in the opener to 16 and 18 against the Rams and Bengals to just eight Sunday. He missed the 49ers game with an injury.
That's eight snaps in a game when the Eagles' top three projected receivers were all inactive.
JJAW doesn’t even play special teams. He’s played 14 special teams snaps since he got here, none in his last 15 games.
Arcega-Whiteside has 11 catches for 206 yards in 21 career games, numbers Fulgham surpassed in his first eight days on the field for the Eagles.
No Eagles fan has to be reminded that D.K. Metcalf has 80-for-1,396 with 12 TDs and Terry McLaurin is 87-for-1,332 with 8 TDs, and both were on the board when the Eagles drafted Arcega-Whiteside.
Some 13 wide receivers drafted after JJAW in last year’s draft have more receiving yards.
Arcega-Whiteside caught his first pass of the year Sunday in Pittsburgh and while it was a career-long 37 yards, it came on the final play of the first half as time ran out.
If he wasn’t a 2nd-round pick, the Eagles would have released him by now. But being a 2nd-round pick buys any player time he may not deserve.
The last time the Eagles released a 2nd-round pick before the end of his second year was 2012, when they cut safety Jaiquawn Jarrett just one week into his second season. Before that it was linebacker Quintin Caver, about a month into the 2002 season. Before that you have to go back to 1994, when defensive tackle Bruce Walker didn’t even make it to opening day of his rookie year.
Would the Eagles consider cutting JJAW once Jackson and Alshon return?
The cap hit wouldn’t be huge — under $1 million — but it would just be an organization-wide embarrassment I don’t think Howie Roseman and his staff want right now.
They cut struggling Mack Hollins in the middle of last year, but he was a 4th-round pick and in his third season here.
But the main reason they probably won’t cut him is because there are so many question marks with this current group of receivers.
Granted JJAW is one of them. One of the biggest.
But as promising as Fulgham looks, it’s just two games. As reliable as Ward has been, he’s a short-yardage slot. As fast as Hightower is, he’s a 5th-round rookie with 7 catches for 57 yards through five games. And it’s hard to be confident in Jackson and Jeffery staying healthy even if they do make it back onto the field.
So as disappointing as he’s been, it’s hard to imagine the Eagles being in a rush to jettison JJAW. The way things have gone around here, they just might need him back on the field in the near future.
Plus the last thing the Eagles need is to cut Arcega-Whiteside and have him sign somewhere else and instantly start catching passes and making plays.
That said, if Arcega-Whiteside doesn’t start producing in these next 11 games, it’s difficult to see the Eagles giving him another year.
Even if Jeffery and DeSean are gone, you’d have Reagor, Hightower, Fulgham and Watkins all going into their second season here and Ward holding down the slot. Plus whoever they draft or sign next offseason.
You could give Arcega-Whiteside training camp to try to find signs of life, but he had a good training camp this past summer and hasn’t been able to transfer it onto the field. So what would that even mean?
If he’s getting eight snaps when Jackson, Jeffery and Reagor are all out, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going to happen when they’re all back.