Taking Stock of J.J. Arcega-Whiteside’s Rookie Year

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Whenever your receiver makes a catch like that for you downfield, it has to spark some confidence from your coaching staff and quarterback. The hope was that this play would reassure Carson to take a chance down the sideline when JJAW is on the field. The route is beautiful, the adjustment and catch even more so.

Fast forward to last week’s game against the Cowboys. On the very first play from scrimmage, the Eagles go right at J.J., who makes a fantastic catch. He also runs a very solid route on the play and if Wentz is able to hit him in stride, he may have been able to turn up field for a few more yards.

After that play, Arcega-Whiteside seemingly disappeared. He left the game injured at one point but managed 45 offensive snaps for the game. He was targeted only once more for a 12 yard gain. Again fans questioned his ability to get open against professional competition. We’ll turn to our friend Thomas for a response to that:

What’s Next

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside’s lack of rookie production is a puzzling conundrum. It isn’t devoid of offensive snaps, his talent is clearly on display and yet it never really translated into on-field success. So, what needs to happen next season to change the narrative?

The first is chemistry. Even with veteran receivers like Alshon Jeffery, we have seen that it takes time for Carson Wentz to develop enough trust in his receivers to throw them the football in contested situations. That is especially true down the sideline. Even with short and intermediate routes, little misunderstandings can lead to unsuccessful plays. We can see that on the play below, in which Carson expects J.J. to post up on the inside hip of his defender instead of drifting to the outside.

Hopefully going forward we are able to see more of this relationship between Carson and J.J. develop. Next year’s offense should undoubtedly feature more pass plays that allow Wentz to freestyle and get out of the pocket and JJAW has shown that he never gives up on a play. He’s smart and understands where to go on a scramble to find open space. This is another ability that is difficult to teach as it’s more about feel for the defense than specific positioning. Both plays below, showing Arcega-Whiteside recognize his QB is in trouble and work back to the football, emphasize a knowledge for the game.

The other, more significant change that needs to happen is that the offensive coordinator (whoever that may be), needs to find ways to allow JJAW to do what he does best:

Limit the plays where he has to make quick breaks to the inside of the field and let him keep his defender on an island.

Allow the young man to beat defenders downfield, throw the ball early in the route and let him adjust to the football.

Look for him and his massive frame inside the 20 and let him box out opposing defenders for contested catches.

Lastly, remember that 50/50 balls are just that, 50%. Do not get discouraged when J.J. can’t come down with the first one, there’s a good chance he’ll come down with the next one. Two targets is not enough, period.

With the lack of success the Eagles have had developing in house receivers, there’s reason to feel doubtful about Arcega-Whiteside’s future return in midnight green. Without an impressive first-year number to point to, it can be difficult to make a case to maintain hope in the young fella. This is especially true when stacking him up against the other second-round receivers taken in recent years. However, the film certainly shows a tantalizing upside and with a little work and a little help, there’s no reason he can’t become a top option for what will hopefully be a much-improved offense next season.

Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

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