It took three years, but Doug Pederson was finally able to find a WR2 solution. It wasn’t Dorial-Green Beckham, nor was it Torrey Smith or Mike Wallace. Instead, it was the man who created the void, to begin with; DeSean Jackson. But with a receiver who averaged 18.9 yards per reception last year back in Philadelphia, the Eagles continue to build on another foundation.
Under-the-radar, the Eagles have been building an offense of giant playmakers…literally. Dallas Goedert was drafted in the second round last year and although it took a while for him to garner some playing time, the 6-5 tight end sent shockwaves through the NFL, with all four of his touchdowns coming on red zone opportunities. With 334 yards on 44 targets, Goedert let the world know that a breakout was incoming, but it’s an earthquake that the Eagles are really looking to cause.
After ranking second in red zone scoring percentage (TD) in 2017, the Eagles slipped to 17th position one year later. There were several reasons for this, but we all know that a focus in the red zone has been implemented for quite some time. What’s really interesting is that according to Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball), the Eagles have run the third-most red zone plays of any team in the NFL over the last three years, but a success rate of just 44%, also ranking them 17th in the league. It’s all well and good driving inside the 20, but if the car runs out of gas, it’s an opportunity wasted.
Enter JJ Arcega-Whiteside. The 6-3 receiver mirrors Alshon Jeffery’s frame and skillset, proving to be a jump-ball specialist who hauled in 14 touchdowns last year at Stanford. His ability to go up and ‘rebound’ like a basketball player, using his frame to box out defenders, is truly mesmerizing and something the Eagles will utilize heavily down inside the 20.
To give some context, here’s how a simple 12-personnel formation could look inside the 20 next year.
|JJ Arcega-Whiteside||WR||6’3||221 lbs|
|Zach Ertz||TE||6’5||250 lbs|
|Dallas Goedert||TE||6’4||260 lbs|
|Alshon Jeffery||WR||6’3||218 lbs|
We can talk about Mack Hollins who stands at 6’4, the 6’5, 2x Pro Bowler in Zach Ertz, or even bowling ball running back Jordan Howard who will be sure to knock over pins when the going gets tough. But the focus even carries down to the depth of the roster.
Take former Rutgers receiver Carlton Agudosi for example, who caught three red zone touchdowns during Thursday’s Training Camp practice, The 6’6 receiver caught the attention of many and the praise of his Head Coach.
“It’s a thing that I think every young receiver learns as they go. Every day is a different day, different set of challenges.” Doug Pederson said after the day’s action. “I think he’s working his tail off in the individual part of practice.
He’s tall so he has to learn to play with his pad level down. Corners, DBs can really get their hands on a tall frame. He’s really working hard on that and bending; pretty flexible for a big guy, and it’s carrying over into the team reps.”
While the rest of the league seems to focus on getting players open in space with smaller, lighter frames who can burst through gaps in a heartbeat, the big bad Eagles are looking to bully their way down the field with a combination of size and speed.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Dating back to Pederson’s Kansas City days, the red zone has been a clear red circle point. The Chiefs finished 5th in red zone scoring in 2013, Pederson’s first year as the offensive coordinator (60%). The following season the team finished 9th in red zone scoring, while the team didn’t have a single touchdown reception from a wide receiver that year (58%). His last season as the Chiefs offensive coordinator in 2015, the team finished 12th in red zone scoring. Losing their best offensive player in Jamaal Charles, played a pivotal role in the decline of red zone production, but the Chiefs still produced fairly well (57%). Pederson did have a hands-on impact with the red zone production since he called all the 2nd half plays from week 7 and beyond, kickstarting his Head Coaching career.
Pederson inherited an Eagles offense that ranked 23rd in red zone scoring in 2014, and 15th in 2015. After some ups, downs and flat out dominance in between, this is a unit poised to emulate the success he enjoyed in Kansas City.
Doug Pederson’s emphasis on red zone execution has been noted by the media over the last couple of seasons, but it’s clearly been heard by the front office, who have assembled a roster of transformers upon request who are ready to absolutely terrorize defenses inside the danger zone.
If you thought the Eagles offense was dangerous before, just wait for the 2019 season to unfold.
Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports