For wide receivers, being selected in the early rounds of the 2019 draft comes with high expectations Throughout the 2019 season, guys like D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Marquise Brown, and Terry McLaurin have been impressing with good rookie season stats.
For JJ Arcega-Whiteside, the story is different. The second-round pick has just 43 yards on 3 receptions so far. Fans have wondered for weeks why he doesn’t have more production, more snaps, and generally look like other rookies. Especially given how the Eagles have been crying out for help at wide receiver all season.
It begs questions like: Is he bad? Is he on the field? Is he open? Why isn’t he used more? Let’s start from scratch:
Thrown into the fire:
When the Eagles entered the season, the receiving core was scheduled to consist of Alshon Jeffery, Desean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor as the top 3, with Mack Hollins supporting.
In an offense that runs a lot of 12 personnel and has two of the best TEs in the league, obviously the chance of J.J. playing was slim, hence, he didn’t practice to be a starter at all.
Enter week 2. Desean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery are injured in warmups and TE Dallas Goedert was also sidelined. Now, 12 personnel is out the window 5 minutes before game time. One would assume this would lead to an exciting opportunity for the rookie receiver, but that wasn’t to be the case.
Both Arcega-Whiteside and Hollins looked lost…quite literally:
Although, JJ was open on several deep routes:
Pulled from the lineup:
After the games against the Lions and Falcons, Arcega-Whiteside was basically pulled from the lineup. Doug Pederson said they were ‘cross-training him for multiple positions’ and from that moment until the Bye, it was largely been nothing but radio silence
Since week 3, Arcega-Whiteside has been on the field for 29 passing snaps. That’s roughly 4 snaps/game.
Gaining confidence and showing on the film:
Leading up to the matchup against the Patriots, expectations were at an all-time low for the Stanford product, and understandably so for a receiver who has barely played.
However, that didn’t stop him from expressing optimism last week:
“Now knowing all the other positions helps me a lot knowing what everybody else is going to do and how I need to treat my job, how I need to do my job. And just reps, getting reps at practice and games here and there. It’s slowed down the game tremendously and just being out there and having fun.”JJ Arcega-Whiteside
After the game, fans were left with the same feeling as the rest of the season: “Where were the wide receivers? Where was JJ Arcega-Whiteside?”
I went through each of the 19 snaps the rookie played in. 12 of which were pass attempts. To my surprise I guess, he was open. A lot.
Carson needs to have confidence in his young guy, build him up, and let him catch contested balls, which is where he notably thrived in college.
A rookie pushed too far too early
In conclusion, I guess I’m saying don’t worry about JJ. The entire plan for him was to wait in the wings and learn, avoiding having to play right away, but due to misfortune and injuries, he was pushed into a much bigger role.
Now, with the film he put up against the Patriots, and with the current flat-line state of the Eagles offense, the scene is set for him to play a ton more.
A young WR that can grow a connection with Wentz has to be priority #1 on this team right now.