What are the Eagles getting in TCU’s Jalen Reagor?

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The moment has come and gone. The anticipation and excitement mounting in months of isolation came to a fever pitch as the words “On the Clock” flashed over an Eagles logo. Then the announcement came. The newest member of the Philadelphia Eagles is Texas Christian’s Jalen Reagor.

Whether he’s your favorite receiver or not, it seems as if Howie Roseman truly did get his guy. They met with him the most out of any prospect, Doug Pederson even calling his head coach. There were plenty of tidbits left like a trail of breadcrumbs hinting at the fact that the speedster could be the selection. With CeeDee Lamb tumbling, there were glaring windows of opportunity for the Birds to shoot up the board and take another top wide-out. Instead, they stayed put and got the guy they had wanted all along.

So, without further ado, let’s meet the newest member of your Philadelphia Eagles. I was only able to use film from 2 games due to uploading restrictions, but there’s plenty on my computer so there may be more to come.

Speed

You can’t talk about Jalen Reagor without starting the discussion here. Howie Roseman was often quoted talking about on-field speed as opposed to combine speed when looking at this year’s prospects. This was telling because there were some questions raised about Reagor’s 40-time at the combine. He ran a 4.47, but he also ran an unofficial 4.22 and 4.28 at his virtual pro day. Whenever there’s a variance like that, the film is the tiebreaker. On tape, it’s immediately clear that he’s already one of the fastest young players in the NFL. He reached the fastest clocked time in game in all of college football last season at 22.6 mph.

In terms of metrics, Reagor holds a 70th percentile speed score. This is balanced against the size of the receiver. With sheer top speed, there may be some receivers ahead of him. They’re few and far in between, but there are some instances of players catching Reagor from behind. Regardless, this score will likely rise once he’s able to strut his stuff on an NFL field. When allowed a free release off the line of scrimmage, he makes no mistakes. In the 2018 game against Ohio State he beat their very talented secondary like a drum only to be overthrown time and time and time again.

While his speed score is in the 70’s, it is his 99th percentile burst score that makes Reagor truly enticing. It takes him no time at all to reach his top speed and he can do so effortlessly. His bend and body control while building up speed is incredible. Where some receivers would have to gear down or even break down, Reagor can make complete changes of direction without even slowing down. When he does come to a stop, his first steps are explosive enough to make separation with a single move.

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Taking screens and short passes it was commonplace to see him simply run past his opponents. There are times when he’s not the faster player, it’s just that Reagor can get up to speed faster. He knows it too. That confidence allows him to use false steps, hesitation, and head fakes to open up space. That variance in approach makes him a very difficult tackle in one-on-one situations. While sheer speed doesn’t always translate to NFL success, that quickness and burst are more transferable. With the ball in his hands, Reagor has no trouble eating up space and consistently finding yardage using his gifts.

YAC

This quickness and ability to change directions makes Reagor a terror after the catch. He’s such a fluid mover he can use slight hesitations or variance in speed to play mind games with his opponents. With good scheming or one good block, a Reagor screen is almost guaranteed 10 yards. He’s that good. Despite some hesitation using his physicality in other areas, he has no trouble seeking out small gaps between defenders even if it means lowering a shoulder. He won’t bulldoze anyone, but he regularly attacks the weak points of contact to ensure he falls forward for yards. If defenders don’t square up, Reagor has the balance and strength to run through arm tackles fairly easily.

When used as a gadget player out of the backfield, Reagor seems to really understand his blocks. While the play below is a negative play, there are a lot of positives in what Jalen does. He understands his two entry points are off-tackle or to the outside. Pressing the hole he sees that the gap is closing and attempt to spin away from contact. That spin leads him directly into his next point of attack and if his teammates were able to hold their blocks, this could have been a big play out of relatively nothing.

Route Running

His route running isn’t exactly crisp, but it’s savvy. He uses his deceptive and unpredictable movements to gain leverage on defensive backs. He’s also fairly adept at finding the soft spot in mid to deep coverage. Whether it’s a false step, a turn of the hips, or just a little lean, Reagor finds creative ways to create separation at the top of his routes.

This clip is a beautiful little example of how Jalen manipulates space and speed to break free. If not for the atrocious pass, this play would have been a touchdown. It’s lovely to see that nuanced dip in the hips, which actually causes a full turn from the safety. It’s easy to overlook or underplay those moves when you’re 10 yards away from a defender, but this is where Reagor’s football IQ really shines.

Below is a nice little combo of moves that showcases Reagor’s craftiness. It’s the same route, run just a couple plays later in the same drive. With just a simple false step Reagor gets the defender to bite even when he knows which route is coming. It’s no coincidence. Reagor is much more of a technician than many people give him credit. Not simply a deep threat, there are a lot of things to like about his upside as a savvy route runner.

That being said, when he’s not the primary option you can sometimes see him fall asleep at the wheel. On film, you see some drops late in the play, when Reagor is clearly the third or fourth read and just isn’t expecting the football. Albeit, in some cases, he certainly shouldn’t have been thrown the football or was downright forced the football. Again quarterback play makes it very difficult to evaluate his ability as a receiver.

In terms of technical route running, Reagor is much better when he can run longer, fluid routes and use his deceptive changes in pace to get open. Although he has the quickness, when asked to break down his routes can get a bit sloppy. He still has ample explosion out of his routes, but he does allow spaces for the defensive back to recover or win the route.

There are also notable qualms with his willingness to be an inside receiver. He clearly understands zones and knows where to find the soft spots in the defense. However, there is a noticeable drop in intensity when he is asked to run a crossing route or sit down in between linebackers. You see a lot more pep in his step when he knows he’s going deep.

Because opponents don’t fear his presence inside, it limits his ability to use fakes to open up room to the outside. Credit where credit is due, the corner in the clip below does a fantastic job of staying disciplined. Still, nobody is fooled by the inside move and it holds even less weight knowing Reagor doesn’t really have an aptitude for banging bodies on the inside. His development as a route runner with in-breaking routes will do wonders for his deep game.

Plays like the one below are a bit dumbfounding. It’s not exactly certain what TCU was trying to do on this play, but that is one of the laziest hook/comeback routes you’ll see. The fact that he was still wide open and had a shot at the first down is more of a statement on Texas’ defense than anything else. Still, you like to see him at least find the space and settle into it, no matter how lackadaisical the route was.

On the other hand, he makes a very intriguing bait to open up space for his teammates. Teams were obviously keyed on Reagor in college more so than they will be in the pros; but still, his big-play potential and scary burst cause a lot of eyes to be turned his way. There are multiple times in which he simply opens up for a screen pass and draws two or three defenders out of position. That, for Doug Pederson’s offense, is exciting. The coach that makes a living off of double — even triple — screens and fake actions will certainly take full advantage.

Catch Radius/ Jump Balls

A shorter receiver, Jalen Reagor wasn’t brought in to be the team’s jump-ball specialist. He’s got relatively short arms and average hand size. Nevertheless, there is something to be said for his range as a receiver. He dealt with inaccurate passes his entire career and has been able to adjust. The success he has had with subpar passers does not come without some ability to make the most of a poorly thrown ball.

As a jump-ball specialist, Reagor is only limited by the length of his arms. There aren’t many 5’11” receivers that play the ball so well in the air. His ability to high point the football and come down with it are impressive. However, he’s simply not big enough to box out defenders or consistently play the back-shoulder game. Reagor can and will adjust for the football and has very impressive body control that allows him to make some catches he probably shouldn’t have. He holds onto the football pretty well when tasked with 50/50 balls, but his smaller hands don’t have the strength to consistently come down with contested catches.

When tracking the football, there is a huge dependence on quarterback play. When Reagor knows where the football is going to be and he’s led downfield, he’s fantastic. There are a few concentration drops, but also a number of tough catches. Even with the drops, he certainly knows where the football is. His ability to track the football translates well to both outside routes and routes over the middle. He reads space well and will run his routes to allow for throwing lanes for the quarterback — a very nuanced technique for a 21-year-old. He does well to stack his defenders, although there is some room for improvement here.

For this reason, his upside as a red zone receiver is luring. A player with that much lateral agility will be able to create separation in even the tightest spaces. He will be a great option on screens and quick routes that the Eagles love to run near the end zone. Then, with his ability to contort his body to come down with jump balls, there are a lot of ways to create favorable scenarios for Reagor inside the 20.

Hands

Any time a receiver is tagged with a drop rate over 15%, there’s cause for concern. On 92 targets in 2019, Reagor had nine drops, which was worst among first-round receivers. It’s important to note that 33% of those targets were deemed uncatchable. Still, that drop rate is worrying.

When looking for drops on film, what I saw most is a lack of concentration at the top of routes, particularly in-breaking routes. There’s a drop in the 2018 Ohio State game that’s essentially the same as in the clip below.

There are two problems at play here. The first is that Reagor is guilty of body-catching. He doesn’t trust his hands and is guilty of letting the ball reach his chest before securing it. This is a major problem if the ball placement is off. You see above that the ball is a bit high and Reagor’s hands aren’t ready. Against Ohio, the ball was a bit behind. So, there is some reason to believe that a more accurate quarterback would solve some of these concerns. However, the young man’s tendency to let the football get into his frame will have to be remedied.

The other issue seems to be an overall willingness to make plays over the middle of the field. In the deep middle, there are no issues, but when asked to run intermediate in-breaking routes, Reagor almost seems to look over his shoulder. Again, having a consistent quarterback that won’t sell you out on hospital passes does wonders for a receiver’s confidence. Nevertheless, there are times on film where he seems tentative trying to find space in between defenders. It’s not that he hears footsteps, it’s just that he turns his head up-field too soon or turns to the football too late.

Unfortunately, it seems as if this is not an overnight fix. There may be some frustrating drops early in Reagor’s career. However, with the amount of spectacular catches in traffic he makes, there is hope for the future. If he can stay locked in and be a bit more confident in his hands, there is a lot to like.

Blocking

Sometimes he’s frustrating in this area. On some plays it’s a lack of effort, on others it’s a lack of awareness and sometimes it’s a combination of both. All the physical tools are there, really. He’s not a huge guy, but he’s definitely shown the ability to out-muscle, or at least out-hustle his opponent. There are some good blocks on his tape. He certainly knows how to get in the way, even if he can’t always move bodies.

There are other times, however, that he just doesn’t seem to want to. He whiffs much too often just because he doesn’t move his feet. He’s much better when the defender is in press, or the play has him leveraging the defender to the outside. When asked to be a stalk blocker, or find his man in space, there are mixed results. There are a lot of instances that he’s late and has to try to block the back of a defender. He can also have trouble sustaining blocks if he isn’t able to lock on to his defender with the first punch. It all depends greatly on footwork. On plays where Reagor is proactive and drives his feet after first contact, he’s got some juice. On other plays he’s late, stops his feet, and gets blown by.

If he is able to get his hands on his man, he certainly has the requisite strength to fulfill his responsibility. For those of you numbers people, he benched 225 lbs 17 times at the combine — not too shabby. With a little lower body action he could actually be a solid blocker. Too many times he stops his feet after the first attempt or fails to put himself in a position to compete for inside leverage. Fixing these tendencies is likely just a case of improving technique and getting game repetitions. However, the plays in which he seems to lack desire are a tad troubling.

Fit

The Eagles offense has grown accustomed to sporting many different outfits over the span of a single season. It’s assumed that the ideal version of that offense is what was on display early in the 2019 season when DeSean Jackson’s speed took the spotlight. In that version of the Doug Pederson offense, Reagor has every opportunity to be successful. He will have to limit concentration drops and become more engaged as a blocker, but coaches would be willing to sacrifice some of that for the ability to essentially manufacture touchdowns. It looked so easy against the Redskins.

Nevertheless, we’ve also seen Philadelphia play a very different style of football — one that controls the clock and plays the possession game with outside zone runs and quick passes to stretch a defense laterally. Certainly, they were forced into that role at times last season. The truth is, Doug Pederson’s offense needs both. Any good offense does, but the Eagles more so than most. When the Eagles have to play keep away, Reagor has some improvements to make before he’s the number one option.

As enticing as Reagor is as a deep threat, there is some work to do on his intermediate route running and his confidence finding the open spot and catching the ball in traffic. Timing routes and spacing concepts won’t be his calling card early on in his career. He just wasn’t asked to do it in college. He has the sense for space and athleticism to improve, but there has to be a willingness. This is a good time to bring up the fact that being in house with DeSean Jackson is an incredibly underrated asset for Reagor’s career. Jackson’s leadership is an oft-discussed subject in the Eagles locker room and his skill set and experience make him a perfect mentor for the young receiver. If anyone can ignite a fire, it will be DeSean.

As a gadget player, there is a ton of upside. Looking at how Pederson implemented Nelson Agholor in 2017, there are a lot of creative wrinkles that fit seamlessly into this offense. Reagor fits the bill. He has inside/ outside versatility and lined up all over the field in college. As a ball carrier, he’s fairly aware of his lanes and has some nifty tools to set up his blocks. If he does get the edge, it’s all over with. TCU had him take a ton of screens and I found myself holding my breath for every one. He really does have that big-play potential.

That’s true for special teams as well. Reagor was an electric return man, something the Eagles have desperately sought after. He will likely be penciled in for those duties early on. The Eagles staff have already raved about his upside in the return game.

Will this manifest into a massive rookie season? Only time will tell. However, he’ll have a fantastic opportunity to start the year off with a bang while Alshon Jeffery makes his way back from injury. Eagles fans will find out early on just how electric Reagor can be. After Alshon’s return, it may be the case that the rookie’s usage is tempered. It would likely depend on just how quickly Carson Wentz and his new recruit can get acquainted. Keep in mind the NFL will face a shortened off-season.

Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

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