The Eagles have suffered a tumultuous start to their 2020 campaign and their Super Bowl hopes took an even bigger blow on Wednesday. Prized rookie Jalen Reagor suffered a UCL (thumb) tear and it was announced he could well be out for up to 8 weeks. This is a devastating blow to an offense already lacking explosiveness, but there’s a slim window of opportunity for one receiver in particular – J.J Arcega-Whiteside.
The stars are aligning for Arcega-Whiteside
The Eagles receiving corps is back to square one. Alshon Jeffery isn’t yet ready to go and with Jalen Reagor down, it’s D-Jax and Greg Ward Jr. currently manning two of the three starting spots. Doug Pederson may well opt to give John Hightower some extended looks with Quez Watkins still down, but the natural choice is to give a chance to last year’s second-round pick.
With the offense sputtering at every turn, familiarity and stability are what it needs more than anything. The unit has seen quite the change this offseason, with play-action now being the base of all things weird and wonderful(?). But the speed they need to make the magic happen is no longer around, meaning it would behoove the Eagles to roll out some old tricks for their old dogs, reverting to foundations of a possession receiver at the X, all the speed at Z, and a shifty slot receiver.
Making up for lost time
J.J Arcega-Whiteside’s rookie year was hardly eye-catching. He was effectively redshirted in order to learn the playbook from every spot, while Alshon Jeffery’s new guaranteed salary put a glass ceiling over his immediate impact. This, partnered with injuries we later learned about in an interview he agreed to with 100yardas, resulted in a year deemed disappointing by many, where he tallied 169 yards and just one touchdown in a year where the opportunity was limitless.
Much was expected of the Stanford product going into year 2 and he left those who attended Training Camp purring. With Alshon Jeffery injured, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to rise up and seal the ‘X’ throne.
Does Arcega-Whiteside have a bright side?
In week one, JJAW spent a lot of time in the slot, confusingly. He did have a touchdown pass intended for him land into the hands of Zach Ertz so…that’s a plus?
Week two saw Carson Wentz throw an ill-advised, late, slow pass behind JJAW in the end-zone, leading to a Darius Williams interception. So far, he’s only played in 44 total snaps (Reagor leads the unit with 100, which is even more worrying). But he’s yet to register a single catch.
With all other options burning out, Arcega-Whiteside might be in one last-chance window of opportunity. If the next few weeks pass and he’s unable to so much as make a dent in the offense, then Alshon Jeffery’s return awaits and with it comes the team’s most-used and most-prized young receiver, along with a potential shot for Quez Watkins.
One last shot
It won’t be long before the need for speed becomes the name of the game once again. It’s down to Arcega-Whiteside to make the most of this moment and prove that he does indeed have a role to play in the bigger picture.
JJAW’s size does work into his favor this week. Star CB William Jackson is 6’0. 3 inches shorter than the wideout and believe it or not, he’s their tallest DB on the roster. If there is ever a game for Arcega-Whiteside to ‘box people out’, this is the one. The Bengals allowed 80% of the Browns’ drives that reached the red zone last week to be marched in for six. With a receiver of JJAW’s stature essentially forced into a bigger role, it’s almost as if the stars have aligned.
If the Eagles can allow Wentz to toss it up to jump-ball specialists and big bodies (which makes sense since they ran 80% of their offense with 2 tight ends on the field last week anyway), then maybe Arcega-Whiteside has a shot at redemption. For the sake of his own future, he’d better hope he does.
hoto by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire