Can Jalen Hurts help Jalen Reagor finally get going?

Jalen Reagor
PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 20: Philadelphia Eagles Wide Receiver Jalen Reagor (18) runs a route in the first half during the game between the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles on September 20, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

With the benching of Carson Wentz, anticipation for Eagles’ rookies is at an all-time high. Most of the focus is rightfully zeroed in on Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia’s controversial second-round pick. However, there is another rookie Jalen that also deserves some attention. – Jalen Reagor.

The Eagles’ first-round pick has had a tumultuous season. Working through injury and a stagnant offense, Jalen Reagor hasn’t had the opportunity to show more than glimpses of the receiver he could be for Philadelphia.

Let’s take a look at why that is, and how it could change in the final weeks of the season.

Diversified Route Tree

So far this season we have seen one of the most vanilla iterations of the Eagles offense in recent memory. Routes have been hampered by vertical thinking and combinations have been uninspired. This has affected the entire receiving core, and the offense as a whole — but perhaps Reagor the most.

Jalen wasn’t pegged as an incredibly polished route runner coming into the NFL, but his sheer athleticism should be translating fairly seamlessly to growth in that area. The key to any rookie’s season is development. Trial by error is essential for growth in the NFL. In Reagor’s case, the coaching staff hasn’t taken the reigns off to really see what the kid can do. It’s obvious when looking at his routes ran from this season.

(Pictures from NFL Next Gen Stats)

Jalen Reagor Week 11 Route Chart

The first issue I see is that — understanding that one of the major points of drafting Reagor over Jefferson is his ability as an outside receiver — the two charts below show an awful lot of slot work. Now, to be fair, a lot of these plays are from bunch formations, which Pederson loves for whatever reason. Still, these plays don’t lend themselves to a player who excels in space. Perhaps the thinking is that it bodes well for his development, being a position-less receiver. However, we’ve seen the Eagles’ coaching staff fail to deliver on that promise time and time again. At the end of the day, if that is the goal, there need to be more plays in the playbook that are simply designed to get the ball in Reagor’s hands.

Jalen Reagor Week 2 Route Chart

That brings us to the second issue. Aside from the odd screen or reverse, we haven’t seen many attempts from Doug Pederson to capitalize on what Reagor does well. Sure he’s speedy, but he’s not simply a burner. He’s excellent with the ball in his hands and can rack up yards after the catch. This is a game of attrition. Four receptions a game give very low odds that Jalen can break one for a touchdown. For reference, Reagor has averaged 4.8 targets a game.

Give the man the ball. The one play that springs to mind is a screen on a critical fourth down and guess what — Reagor converted.

If you think it hasn’t been as bad as it seems . . . let’s compare Reagor’s route tree to that of his fellow rookies. In comparison, it’s pretty atrocious.

Below are two examples of Justin Jefferson’s route trees. He has been targeted an average of 7 times per game, and 10 times on average over the last four weeks. Also, keep in mind the Eagles throw the ball 37.7 times per game to Minnesota’s 30.2.

Justin Jefferson Week 10 Route Chart
Justin Jefferson Week 12 Route Chart

And here are two examples of Brandon Aiyuk’s routes ran. Again, he has been targeted 7.2 times per game and 10 times on average over the last four weeks. Again, they trail Philadelphia in pass attempts per game.

Brandon Aiyuk Week 10 Route Chart
Brandon Aiyuk Week 8 Route Chart

Simply put, they’re both all over the field and getting peppered with opportunity. This is what Jalen Reagor needs for his development. Philadelphia doesn’t really have an excuse for why this hasn’t been the case. Sure, there have been some questions of Jalen’s ability to separate after a slow start to the season marred by injury. Honestly, after the punt return touchdown, all of the questions about his speed should have been put to bed. If there still are concerns, then give him the ball early.

Continued on the page below.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire