Rookie seasons can often go one of two ways – overwhelmingly successful, or worryingly bad. Eagles wideout JJ Arcega-Whiteside had a rough go of it. The Birds craved wide receiver help all year long and the second-round pick could only muster 169 yards and 1 touchdown. But in year two, he’s looking to right that wrong.
The lie of the land
JJAW was brought in to be Alshon Jeffery 2.0 but instead, he was cross-trained and possibly overburdened by the requests of his previous offensive coaches. So where does the sophomore receiver stand now?
The Eagles focused on improving their WR groups this offseason as they traded for Marquise Goodwin, who has opted out of this season, while also drafting Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, and Quez Watkins. Four new receivers enter the fray, with three of them having near-guaranteed spots on the roster this season.
They all bring something that Arcega-Whiteside doesn’t – speed. Watkins has shown just how quick he really is and has even impressed teammates and coaches with his route running and catching during training camp. We’ve also seen the quick cuts by Hightower that shows he’s NFL ready. As for Reagor, there’s no doubt that the Eagles found a star in the first round.
Finding a niche
So how can a player like JJ keep up with all the new toys on this offense? He has to do the hardest thing an athlete can do, reinvent himself. The receiver took the offseason to heal from the injuries of his rookie campaign and also reflected on what happened that season.
“Around this time last year, I was trying to learn all the plays, learn how they get done, try, and find chemistry with Carson, learn how everything works in the NFL.”
“Second time around.. I hate to say that I know all the plays because there’s going to be a day or two where I have a mental error, but I’m pretty confident in the plays. I don’t go into practice with a script in my hand trying to memorize the plays that I have, I’m just like, I’m in the huddle, you call the play, I know what I gotta do. Now I can play faster, I can play more confidently, and show everybody what I can do instead of trying to do the right thing.”https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/jj-arcega-whiteside-says-hes-a-totally-different-player-heading-into-his-2nd-season/ar-BB18dTWJ
X marks the spot
For very good reasons, the jury is still out on the young receiver but it’s very possible that he’ll bring something to the table that the young receivers outside of Reagor can’t bring. JJ isn’t a speed guy, that’s not why they drafted him, instead, they wanted a guy that could above numbers and snatch the ball out of the air.
They needed a player that can attack the ball better than Alshon could in his early days, it was about duplicating an advantage that they already have. Now you line up a player like JJ alongside Reagor and Jackson with Ertz in the middle, there’s no stopping a mixed bag like that. JJ is just as acrobatic as many of the 50/50 ball receivers in his class but the situation around him was never right.
With the nucleus on the coaching staff around him being different and the added juice of more young receivers to line up with him, we may just see the really JJAW this season. To be honest, he may just end up being a huge bright spot for this team down the stretch.