Jalen Reagor

Have Eagles really done enough to fix wide receiver position?

Have Eagles really done enough to fix wide receiver position?

Conventional wisdom says the Eagles upgraded the wide receiver position this offseason.

Not like they had any choice.

Their wide receiver production was the worst in modern Eagles history.

• So bad that for the first time since 1966 they didn’t have a wide receiver with 500 yards.

• So bad that they didn’t have any WRs ranked in the top 65 in the NFL in yards.

• So bad that they didn’t have a receiver all year record consecutive games with at least 65 yards. 

• So bad that the five receivers that suited up for the playoff game against the Seahawks had a combined 55 career receptions.

• So bad that Doug Pederson fired Carson Walch and hired Aaron Moorehead as the team's sixth WRs coach in six years.

It was time for a total rebuild, and that’s what Howie Roseman did.

But as we wait to see what form — if any — a 2020 NFL season takes, the reality is that there isn’t a single sure thing in the restructured Eagles wide receiver corps.

Every single guy is a big, giant question mark.

There are once-great veterans. Youngsters with potential. Long shots who could be keepers.

But there isn’t one guy who you can safely say, “OK, he’s going to catch 65 passes for 850 yards and seven touchdowns this year.”

Yet the Eagles rank sixth in projected 2020 wide receiver spending at $34.1 million, according to Spotrac.

The Eagles currently have 14 wide receivers on the roster. We broke them down into five categories.

Who will wind up making the team? Who will wind up starting? Who will wind up contributing? 

How good will they really be?

A lot of projecting so far. A lot of unknowns. And a lot of hoping.

One-time Pro Bowlers

DeSean Jackson is 33 years old and Alshon Jeffery is 30. Jeffery got significant snaps in only eight games last year and Jackson in just one, although it was an explosive one. Neither has made a Pro Bowl since 2013, both are coming off serious injuries and both are at an age where even healthy receivers begin declining.

Jackson is on the books with an $8.6 million cap figure this year and Jeffery a whopping $15.45 million. The Eagles need production at those numbers. But how much can they expect from Jackson and Jeffery?

Reclamation project

The Eagles gave up virtually nothing to take speedy Marquise Goodwin and his bloated contract off the 49ers’ hands. 

But what are they getting in Goodwin? A guy who has 35 catches the last two years, has averaged 332 yards in his seven NFL seasons and has caught 30 passes just once, in his excellent 2017 season.

Goodwin has a $4.28 million cap figure, so if he makes the team, he better produce. But what does he have left? And can the Eagles get enough of a sense of what they have in Goodwin in a curtailed offseason to make that $4.28 million commitment?

Young draft picks

The real key to this wide receiving corps isn’t Jackson, Jeffery or Goodwin. It’s the 23-year-old JJ Arcega-Whiteside and the 21-year-old Jalen Reagor, the Eagles’ second- and first-round draft picks the last two years.

Reagor was the 21st pick this year and you’d expect a sizeable contribution as a rookie. JJAW was terrible last year but you’d hope for a big jump in Year 2. The reality is Roseman has never drafted an elite wide receiver. Or even a better-than-average one.

Reagor and/or JJAW have to end that streak.

Practice squad posse

Greg Ward is the closest thing to a sure thing the Eagles have, and he’s played seven games in his career. He had nearly half the catches by Eagles WRs the last seven games of the season (28 of 59). But it's still a very small body of work.

Deontay Burnett had a big 41-yard catch against the Giants — the fourth-longest catch of the year by an Eagles WR — and Ward, Burnett, Robert Davis, Marcus Green and Shelton Gibson make it Eagles six 2019 practice squad receivers currently on the roster. Can any of them really be factors?

Rookie long shots

Rookie fifth-round pick John Hightower and sixth-rounder Quez Watkins are both late-round speeders. Manasseh Bailey had a fine career at Morgan State and Khalil Tate is trying to convert from quarterback to wide out, much like Ward did after playing QB at Houston.

Hightower probably has the best shot from this group to make the team and find his way onto the field, but at this point, without OTAs or preseason games, they’re all long shots.

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Most important Eagles for 2020: Jalen Reagor is top 15 

Most important Eagles for 2020: Jalen Reagor is top 15 

Over the next four weeks, we’ll be counting down the 20 most important Eagles for the 2020 season. 

20: Nate Sudfeld 
19. Avonte Maddox
18. Nathan Gerry
17. Dallas Goedert 
16. Derek Barnett

15. Jalen Reagor 

The Eagles’ first-round pick cracks the top 15 and for good reason. He was the 21st pick in the NFL draft and he comes in at a position where the Eagles desperately needed help after last year. Remember when every mock draft had them taking a receiver? There was a reason for that. 

Now, last week Doug Pederson mentioned that Reagor will come in and play one position to start. That means Reagor is in line to be the backup Z receiver behind DeSean Jackson. Despite that, I have a hard time imagining that the Eagles will really leave Reagor on the bench. 

I think Pederson is telling the truth about Reagor learning the Z position first. But even if he doesn’t move along quickly, there will still be opportunities. I expect Reagor to learn the Z, then learn the slot. But I also think there will be opportunities for Pederson to find ways for Reagor to get involved. 

Reagor has explosive traits and YAC ability. So Pederson can dial up plays for him to catch bubble screens, get the ball on end-arounds and Reagor also has the potential to be a pretty good punt returner. 

A lot of his play time will be up to Reagor. Last year, the Eagles were hesitant to give JJ Arcega-Whiteside reps at other positions early. Eventually he found his way onto the field and confirmed those fears. But if Reagor is having a good training camp, there’s no real reason to keep him off the field. 

Right now, DraftKings has Reagor’s over/under for receiving yards set at 700.5. To put that into perspective, just seven rookies in Eagles history have had 700-plus receiving yards. The most recent was Jordan Matthews in 2014. 

If Reagor ends up with an over there, it’ll be a big boost for the Eagles and he’ll be as important to the team as we’re projecting him here. 

Of course, with six receivers going in the first round, there will be plenty of competition between all of them. Here are all of their over/under numbers, per FanDuel . 

12. Henry Ruggs (Raiders): 740.5
15. Jerry Jeudy (Broncos): 774.5
17. CeeDee Lamb (Cowboys): 749.5
21. Jalen Reagor (Eagles): 700.5
22. Justin Jefferson (Vikings): 725.5
25. Brandon Aiyuk (49ers): none listed

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Jalen Reagor will learn 1 position to start, back up DeSean Jackson

Jalen Reagor will learn 1 position to start, back up DeSean Jackson

You might want to temper your expectations for Jalen Reagor’s rookie season. 

The first-round pick might not even start at first. 

Doug Pederson in a video conference call with Eagles reporters on Tuesday morning said that, for now, Reagor is learning just one position. Pederson indicated things were tougher this offseason without OTAs and “grass time” with rookies. 

Right now, he’s gonna come in and learn one position,” Pederson said. “And he’s gonna learn from DeSean Jackson, learn everything he can. 

“Obviously the playbook is extensive and we just have to see what he has taken from the offseason to training camp. Once we see his potential and his growth, then we can use him in multiple spots. One of the things that all of our receivers really have the capability of doing is moving inside, whether they’re an outside guy going inside or an inside guy going outside. We’ll keep him at one position to start and we’ll grow from there.

If Reagor is going to come in and learn behind Jackson, that means he’ll initially be the Eagles’ backup Z receiver and will eventually learn how to play in the slot and then possibly the X.  

But this basically means that if Jackson is able to stay healthy in 2020, it’s going to limit Reagor’s playing time — at least at the start of the season. 

This could leave the Eagles with a significant hole at the X receiver position. That’s where Alshon Jeffery and JJ Arcega-Whiteside generally play. (We haven’t seen Marquise Goodwin yet, but he seems to fit the Z better). 

So if Jeffery isn’t ready for the start of the season, would the Eagles really keep Reagor as a backup behind Jackson, while starting JJAW at the X and Greg Ward in the slot? 

It seems possible. 

Think back to last season. While Arcega-Whiteside cross-trained at all three receiver positions, the reason the Eagles gave for his limited playing time early in the season was that he was the backup X receiver behind Jeffery and Jeffery was healthy. Back then, everyone was clamoring for JJAW to get more playing time. 

It’s also worth noting that even if Reagor is strictly Jackson’s backup — and my guess is his role will grow — he’ll still likely get playing time. Jackson is 33 years old, played just one full game last season and hasn’t played a full season since 2013. Either way, Reagor will be playing as a rookie. The question is: How much? 

At TCU, Reagor was a very versatile receiver, playing all three spots. In fact, Reagor said he felt like he was the most versatile receiver in the 2020 draft class. 

DraftKings has Reagor’s over/under total at 650.5 yards but it’s too early to truly figure out whether the over is an attainable goal. 

We’ll start to get a better idea of that come training camp in late July, when Reagor finally gets in an Eagles uniform. 

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