JJ Arcega-Whiteside showed well-known strengths in big game vs Ravens

The second round pick has been the talk of the town ever since his big game vs Ravens, in which he eclipsed 104 yards on 8 catches and his first TD.

At 6’3″, the Spaniard with excellent basketball genes running in the family, is known for physically man-handling DBs down the field and making spectacular catches.

However, many overlooked the obvious abilities from Arcega-Whiteside’s game pre-draft, thinking he was a “one-trick pony”:

“I love to have that tag with me, as a contested-catches and jump-ball receiver… But at the same time, I’m not limited to that. Any route that you give me, I’m going to run, and I’m going to do my best to get open.”

José Joaquin Arcega-Whiteside pre-draft

But we’re now nearly at the end of preseason, and the Stanford product is proving he’s so much more than that.

“One of the things [about] J.J. is [he is] a hard worker.” Doug Pederson said, unsurprised by his breakout. “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.”

Doug Pederson

Here’s a closer look at some of his biggest plays from last Thursday.

Physical over the middle

Whether it be catching a ball over the middle in traffic, working through contact to get extra yards, or using his big body to create separation on routes, Arcega showed it all both vs Ravens and in college.

The most glaring strength is using his body to lean into defenders as seen on the slant and dig route, forcing them outside and selling and outside route, then break to the inside, and finishing physically and getting extra yards. That is excellent route running.

The Touchdown: Route running finesse techniques

After watching his first TD about 100 times (don’t act like you didn’t do that too), I remembered where I had seen the components of the route before:

  • The outside release, forcing the DB out of balance and overreact to the threat of his outside zone. Turning the hips and giving a head nod outside before planting the foot and turning back inside.
  • The nod at the top of the route, over-selling the inside route before breaking to the outside, getting 1 step ahead of a CB out of balance
  • The extension and sweet hands catch

Those are the components people give high praise for after the game, but really they have all parts of his route running for a long time in college.

The turn after catch, technical YAC ability

You don’t have to stiff arm, truck, sprint, or spin all the time to get extra yards and be an effective YAC player. Simply have a feel for where the DB is coming from, and counter-move that direction after the catch.

In college, Arcega consistently showed that turning explosively towards the side where the defender is sprinting from is effective for him. He translated it beautifully to get extra yards after making tough catches vs Ravens as well.

Expect more than a “one-trick pony”

The game vs Ravens earned Arcega an elite PFF score of 89. The reputation of only having success on vertical jump balls will die out soon enough, as he is thriving in so many other facets of the game in the NFL already.

 Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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