Last season’s Achilles Heel could be a big strength in 2020 for the Eagles

Carson Wentz defenders are quick to bring up the most alarming stat of the 2019 season for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Injuries, confusion, confidence, and just plain ole’ incompetence were among the many reasons for the Philadelphia Eagles wideouts struggling in 2019. With training camp coming up in less than two weeks, the outlook on the Eagles receiving core has changed over the course of the last few months.

The Old and the Walking Wounded

We start with the two oldest receivers in Philadelphia this year. Both Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson come into training camp either hurt, or recovering from an injury.

To start off: it seems more and more likely that Alshon Jeffery will start the season on the PUP list as he continues to recover from Lis Franc surgery he had back in December. The Eagles have said they want to keep Jeffery in Philadelphia and are excited for when he is healthy again. Jeffery has had injury problems since he arrived in Philadelphia since 2017, but his impact on the roster is evident every time he is on the field. In his last full game before going down to injury, Jeffery posted nine catches for 137 yards. Jeffery, when healthy, can clearly still play. Whenever he comes back, he should offer some form of production.

DeSean Jackson is one of the most interesting cases heading into training camp. Off the field, Jackson has had problems this off-season when he made anti-Semitic comments and was fined by the team as a result. On the field, there might be even larger questions. Jackson only played in one full game in 2019 and hasn’t played a full 16 game season in six years. The speed is still there, as evidence from opening day in 2019, but the main question with Jackson circles around his health, much like Jeffery.

The Returning Younglings

With Nelson “Alligator” Agholor’s departure to Las Vegas, the Eagles have two true young returning wideouts. One, whose rookie season was a large disappointment, and another who finally was given a shot and made the most of it.

JJ Arcega-Whiteside had the unfortunate duty of trying to learn multiple different positions and it leads to a very disappointing rookie season. Known for his ability to go up and win jump-balls, Arcega-Whiteside was commonly found struggling to get himself open enough for Wentz to even look his way. Arcega-Whiteside was brought in as the heir apparent to Alshon Jeffery and his second off-season with the team will be huge in determining if he truly has what it takes to be a starting-caliber wide receiver, or if the Eagles whiffed on a second-round pick.

The fact that Greg Ward was the most dependent wide receiver on the 2019 roster is truly something to 1. feel good about for him personally as an undrafted-free agent QB-turned-WR, and 2. absolutely mortified that the team needed him to come in and step in after all the injuries and incompetence. Ward is in no way shape or form penciled in as the starting slot receiver, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that Ward’s roster spot is secured after his late-season run.

Howie Roseman channeled Mickey Goldmill for the 2020 Draft

The Eagles 2020 draft strategy was simple: Speed. Speed. And a nice dose of Speed. The 2019 Eagles passing game felt like a slow march up and down the field once DeSean Jackson got hurt. To answer, Roseman made sure every wideout that was drafted had speed as a tool to use.

Jalen Reagor. What else can we say about the young man? Reagor brings in blistering speed from TCU and an ability to make electrifying catches. He never truly had a great QB while at TCU, and now gets to play with one of the biggest arms in the NFL. It doesn’t matter that he’s going to start the season as a backup to Jackson. Reagor’s potential and ability is clearly there for him to be a dynamic playmaker for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Everyone and their mother was screaming at their television when the Eagles passed up on receivers in the second, third and fourth rounds. Calls for Roseman’s job rang throughout the country (Ok…maybe just my apartment) but then Roseman drafted John Hightower and Quez Watkins to shut the complainers up.

Hightower has a skinny frame for being 6’2″ but has dazzling speed and a very good catch radius. He will be a great addition to the slot receiver spot and will probably compete with Ward for playing time there.

And then there’s Quez Watkins. Many people were quick to point out that 5th and 6th round picks are no guarantee to make the roster, but in one of the deepest receiver classes in NFL history, the Eagles got steals with Hightower and Watkins. Watkins is 6’0″ and his claim to fame is…you guessed it…speed.

Three rookies are brought to the receiving core and all have one thing in common: blistering, mind-numbing, electric speed. The issues of last seasons abysmally slow offense won’t be the case in 2020.

The Rest

The Eagles have 14 receivers currently on their roster. We’ve already gone through seven. The remaining of the position group is highlighted by the trade for Marquise Goodwin from San Fransisco. Goodwin hasn’t been healthy for the last couple of years but still has enough speed to keep the defense attentive of his presence.

Robert Davis and Deontay Burnett both got a ton of playing time late in the season last year and were apart of the “wait who is that guy” questions that the Eagles had towards their run to the division title.

Oh and remember Shelton Gibson? Yep, he’s still technically on the roster but with Watkins and Hightower drafted, his time on the roster might be waning.

Add in two undrafted free agents in Khalil Tate and Manasseh Bailey, along with practice squad member, Manasseh Bailey and the Eagles will have plenty of competition for the 53-man roster once training camp starts.

Summary

The Eagles knew they needed to add an infusion of young, quick talent to the roster. They did just that in the draft and through trades. The offense will look much different in 2020, but make no mistake: if the Eagles want to be seen as a true title contender, the receiving core MUST produce better than they did in 2019.

Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

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