While the Eagles have addressed a glaring need in speedy deep threat receivers there’s an element that has been overlooked as to what the Eagles want these receivers to do. See, the Eagles once traded a 3rd round pick in 2018 for veteran wide receiver Golden Tate. Tate was known for one stat and one stat only, YAC. In layman’s terms, Tate was the king in yards after the catch. That, and that alone, enticed GM Howie Roseman to pull the trigger on the trade. While the world focused on Tate’s role on the team whether it was on the outside or in the slot, Roseman was craving to see the YAC king do this thing.
Unfortunately, the coaching staff was not on the same page as Roseman. The Eagles have struggled to find a player that could dominate with the ball in his hands after the catch. Nelson Agholor filled Golden Tate’s void after the experiment failed, but when Miles Sanders (22nd in the league) leads the team in YAC, and Dallas Goedert is second (44th in the league), that’s not a great sign of success. The sweeps, screens, and slants just didn’t work, and Agholor was left fifth on the team in yards after the catch, while the rest of the receiving corps struggled just as much.
DeSean Jackson gave everyone in Philadelphia the ultimate snippet on what life could be like with a receiver who could run after the catch, averaging 15 yards after the catch in his first game of 2019. That possibility was ripped away by the injury bug, as we all know.
In an era where speed is dominating defenses, the Eagles have been behind the ball for quite some time. Last season the team had only 4.8 yards after the catch per reception in which they were ranked 28th in the league. The interesting thing about that is the team was ranked 5th in the league for the most receptions in 2019. Now, while 4.8 yards seems quite terrible, take note that the defending NFC champs, San Francisco, averaged 6.66 yards after the catch per reception, which led the league. A team in which Rich Scangarello, now part of the Eagles offensive coordinator committee, help build the offense for in 2018.
So what was Howie Roseman thinking when he traded for Goodwin and drafted Reagor, Hightower, and Quez Watkins?
Quez Watkins ranked 17th in the nation for total receiving yards last season, John Hightower 46th, and Jalen Reagor someway off due to the big drop in quarterback play. However, his 1,061 yard season in 2018 where he averaged 14.7 yards per catch stands out here.
It’s been rumored that Roseman and Pederson have been meeting with Reagor once a week to discuss a playbook that features him to be everywhere on the field. It sounds like the Eagles are looking for Reagor to be more than just a deep threat, they want him to do it all…and all it takes is a look at the tape to see why.
For example, against Baylor, Jalen caught a screen pass at the line of scrimmage and took it to the house for a 65-yard touchdown. The way he moved through traffic was effortless including the fancy spin move at midfield.
All of these players have the incredible ability to move smoothly in and out of traffic. Goodwin has done it in his career, Hightower and Watkins both provide the size and speed to help Wentz as well. While this may be a work in progress situation, you should take Agholor as the example of what Pederson and Howie have been trying to do. They want playmakers that can make things happen when the ball is in their hands. Doing this will help keep their franchise QB safe and healthy.
With players like a healthy DeSean Jackson, Marquise Goodwin, and the rookie Jalen Reagor breaking off at the line of scrimmage with elite speed, Wentz could have a field day with just executing slant passes.
Yards after the catch will be very crucial for this team to have success next season. Many teams have worked on building stronger and faster defenses that could take away the long ball but if the Eagles have quality playmakers underneath, then the sky’s the limit for this offense.
Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports