The Eagles third preseason game was called early due to the lightning above Lincoln Financial Field. Of course, usually when mother nature acts up its just because but this time around it was different. It seemed mother nature may have acted up due to a certain Eagles player!
While the bright lights were shining above the Linc, the storylines were already set. Who would be the 5th wideout? How will Josh McCown perform? Is Daeshon Hall for real? All stories that needed answers except for one.
As Mack Hollins continued to do what he can to stiff-arm Marken Michel and Greg Ward from taking his spot, it was the young rookie out of Stanford that electrified Philadelphia. JJ Arcega-Whiteside showed up in a huge way last night. His every move continued to turn skeptics into believers, scorign his first ever NFL touchdown in the process.
“It was funny because I was just talking to my coach and he was like, “Go out there and just play.” The rook said after the . matchup. “Go out there, use your technique, but go out there, play fast, and do whatever you did at Stanford.” I was thinking right before that route, “I’m going to go out there and just play fast on this one and see what happens.” Exactly what we had been practicing and training is what happened. I got open and was able to score a touchdown, so I’m pretty thankful for that.”
The route running was precise, the separation was everything the Eagles front office hoped it would be and the run after the catch was the cherry on top! The rookie receiver showed up on time to his coming out party as he erupted for 104 yards receiving on 8 receptions with 1 touchdown. The last receiver to pass 100 yards during the preseason for the Eagles? Jordan Matthews and Terrell Owens, not bad company if you ask me.
“I wish I could tell you it was some magic or something like that, but it was just really him and the coaching that he was getting.” Recently-signed QB Josh McCown explained after the game. “His preparedness to play is huge. For a young player he carries himself the right way and works really hard. To say that I have a rapport with any of these guys after four days, you know I can’t take any of the credit for that. It’s their work ethic. It’s their time spent. I just know from my experience to put the ball in spots. It’s a credit to them for being in those spots. Hats off to those guys.”
In the third quarter on third and fifteen, Josh McCown tossed a nice touchdown to Arcega-Whiteside in the corner of the end zone that took every single part of his hands to haul in, fingertips and all! Later in the third quarter, on fourth and second, Arcega-Whiteside took a short pass in the middle of the field and turned it into a 35-yard gain after turning on the defender.
“One of the things [about] J.J. is [he is] a hard worker.” His Head Coach explained in relation to his breakout, completely unsurprised by it. “You see it in practice every day. He comes to work every day. He wants to get better. He wants to be taught. He wants to learn. He has a great mentor in [WR] Alshon [Jeffery] in front of him, so he’s learning from that. Being able to talk to [QB] Josh [McCown] or talk to [QB] Carson [Wentz] during the week, talk about routes, talk about coverage, and that’s where he really takes it over to the field, and I think that’s what you saw tonight with him and his ability to make plays. The red zone we know he can be explosive. He was able to do that really not only there, but out in the field.”
One play that really stuck out to me came in the first quarter when JJ caught a laser pass from Kessler for an 18-yard gain. What was unique on this play was the moment JJ showed not only his great route-running ability but his strength. He ended up getting sandwich by two defenders but was the only man left standing after the hits. If it wasn’t for the third defender arriving there on time, Arcega-Whiteside would’ve broken out for a bigger gain.
The young receiver had been fairly quiet up until this game. He stood out during the team’s voluntary workouts and rookie camp but was almost forgotten about throughout the preseason. It is preseason, so to say that he put the league on notice would be too bold of a statement but I’m sure teams are now seeing that he’s going to be a force for years to come. As for now, take the lightning above the Linc as a warning sign. This kid is no joke.
Mandatory Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Rourke