It’s been a bumpy year for the 5-4 Philadelphia Eagles. They may sit at the top of the NFC East, tied with the Dallas Cowboys, but there’s been more noise and adversity than the team have arguably ever faced under Doug Pederson’s guidance. But hrough all the unrest and turmoil, there’s been one common thread – the wide receiver position.
It’s safe to say that heading into week 1, nobody expected the production from Pederson’s outside weapons to be this underwhelming. It’s not just a case of numbers being worryingly low, but it’s the drops, the miscommunications, the lack of action for a second-round pick, and the mental errors. At the end of the day, someone has to take responsibility…and it may well loop back to an argument we’ve heard before.
The Eagles have had three wide receiver coaches in four years and have put a real emphasis on promoting from within the organization across the board. Press Taylor replaced the beloved QB Coach John DeFilippo, and Carson Walch replaced Gunter Brewer at WR coach this offseason. But that may be where the problem lies.
Brewer was regarded as a very strong signing by the Eagles last offseason when he replaced Mike Groh. The former UNC Coach had a strong resume, working with Randy Moss and Dez Bryant in the past and it didn’t take long for him to make an impact. Receivers were instantly dropped into new drills, designed to get them more compact at the point of the catch. Brewer was allowed to leave to fill the same role at Louisville and the Eagles have promoted from within to replace him.
Carson Walch, the new WR coach in town, actually worked as an offensive quality control coach with the Bears, while Mike Groh was the team’s receivers coach in 2013-14. Outside of that, however, Walch had carved his reputation in the CFL. He spent two years with the Edmonton Eskimos, acting as their offensive coordinator and receivers coach in 2017 while coordinating the passing game in 2016. He helped CFL star, Brandon Zylstra, explode with a 1,687-yard season during his time as offensive coordinator.
Walch joined the Eagles last offseason, working alongside Brewer as an assistant wide receivers coach. Like many in the Eagles coaching staff, Walch was a former player prior to coaching, acting as an all-conference running back, receiver, and return specialist for Winona State.
But so far, Walch’s men haven’t just been underperforming, but the coach himself is now giving puzzling remarks to reporters about the positional struggles. Here are a few cherry-picked from Jeff McLane’s article.
“I don’t look at individual statistics,”
On Alshon Jeffery: “He’s prepared every week. He battles through the weekly injuries like any football player does.”
Takeaway: Alshon Jeffery dropped three passes in week 9 alone, a new career-high. He’s also been used on confusing screen passes and struggles to show the shame explosiveness around the catch-point that fans have come to know and love.
On Nelson Agholor: “He works harder than everybody in the room. He’s a great young man. He’s prepared every week.”
Takeaway: This has long-been the case with Agholor. A Road-grader who bursts into the spotlight one week and will be totally missing from it in the next. Tracking the ball has looked to be a glaring weakness this year and drops have also reared their head at times.
On Mack Hollins: “one of our top graders every week because he aligns right, he assigns right, and he plays with great effort.”
Takeaway: His last catch was against the Packers almost one month ago. He’s ran 89 routes since then. It’s not good enough, regardless of how he’s being graded.
Alshon Jeffery is on pace to end up with 661 receiving yards for the Eagles this year, which would be a shockingly low number. Nelson Agholor has played more snaps than any other Eagles receiver and has arguably left the most meat on the Bone…while Mack Hollins doesn’t seem to know what the bone is. As for JJ Arcega-Whiteside, the ‘cross-training’ excuse can only be used so much when the position is crying out for help that a second-round pick should absolutely be able to answer.
What’s even more concerning is that the issues plaguing the room are all directly ‘coachable’.
- Tracking passes
- Aggression at the catch point
- Shielding the ball, Route-running
- Creating separation
To name but a few. Very little of this is schematic unlike what we see on the other side of the ball. None of this is unfixable and it’s oddly affecting every receiver. Yes, losing DeSean Jackson hurt the offense…but that cannot be an excuse for an entire positional group slumping to new lows.
Eventually, questions are going to be asked. Carson Walch had his first taste of finger-pointing earlier this week and the results were worrying at best. The Eagles have to find stability at the WR coach position if they are to capitalize on the prime years of their franchise quarterback and what ultimately should be one of the more talented positional groups in the league.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports