With training camp only days away, the Eagles enter a season full of bold expectations. To some, this team is more talented than the 2017 Super Bowl Champs but as for others, their expectations for this team have them yelling that it’s Super Bowl or bust for the Eagles. Playoffs are pretty far away and to get there the team needs to hit on all cylinders. One focus of the team will be the wide receiver position.
The Eagles come into training camp with three wideouts who may get a majority of the target share but there’s one, in particular, that’s haunting Nelson Agholor for that third spot. I’m almost bold enough to say that he may haunt Alshon Jeffery for the number one spot by the end of the season or the beginning of next year.
Now, who is this wideout that I’m crazy confident in? Well, you should’ve guessed by now that I’m talking about the former Stanford product JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Whiteside was taken in the second round of this year’s draft at the 57th overall pick. A pick that caught most fans and media alike by surprise. See, JJ wasn’t a wideout that drew much media attention leading into the draft. The NFL world was focused on players such as Marquise Brown, AJ Brown, N’Keal Harry, Parris Campbell and of course the most popular wideout prospect, D.K. Metcalf. At the time of the pick, Metcalf and several others were still available, there were even several first-round talent Safeties available. Safety was the route that many expected Roseman to go for but of course, as always, Howie had other plans.
What exactly is the plan for Arcega-Whiteside? Whiteside’s particular skillset is very identical to the Eagles current number one wideout, Alshon Jeffery. He’s a ballhawk receiver that wins a majority of his 50/50 balls and his size is also similar to Jeffery. Whiteside is a big bodied receiver that stands at 6”3’ and weighs in at 225 lbs but that’s not where he shines. Arcega-Whiteside isn’t the speedy deep threat that will blow by defenders, but he isn’t lacking speed. On his pro day, the young receiver ran a 4.49 which is exactly that same results that Eagles running back Miles Sanders finished with.
JJ really shines with his red zone dominance. He’s very efficient when it comes to contested catches. Whiteside had the most contested catches in this draft class with 19 last season. The next closest receiver was Deebo Samuel, who finished the year at 10. Oh, by the way, that monster D.K. Metcalf? He only had 5 contested catches on the year. The ability he has to control his body while boxing out defenders made him stand out among all his peers. His strength and his football IQ rivals that of a first round talent.
Another key trait is his ability to create separation while running his routes. He doesn’t have the quickest feet in the world but he does more than enough to deceive the corner guarding him. According to Pro Football Focus, Arcega-Whiteside finished the year with a grade of 95.5 on targets that went beyond 10+ yards.
Now if you recall, in 2017 the Eagles stood out because of their ability to win on 3rd down and even 4th down. As for last season, it almost seemed as if they could never stay on the field. Here’s another bright spot to Arcega-Whiteside’s game, according to PFF, JJ finished with a grade of 90.6 on 3rd/4th down which was number one in the nation according to PFF. A much needed additional trait for this Eagles roster.
With the future of Nelson Agholor up in the air and Alshon’s cap hit rising for the next two seasons, Howie may have found himself the diamond in the rough that will help him decide on who to keep. See, JJ is a big body guy who can be the number one receiver that Alshon is but at a cheaper price and he’s much younger. He also can be the consistent slot receiver that Agholor can’t be at times. He brings a lot of value to this wideout group and his versatility makes those around him expendable.
JJ has the potential to be an elite receiver for years to come with a QB that will consistently be there for most of his career. His size and athleticism, in my opinion, can catapult him into the same class as Mike Evans or even resemble Jordy Nelson in his prime. One way or another, the expectations are big for number 19, but it’s on him to determine how high the ceiling actually is.
Season Prediction: 42 receptions, 515 receiving yards, and 4 touchdowns.