Eagles may finally have a long-term plan at wide receiver

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – JANUARY 11: Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) celebrates scoring a touchdown with Alabama Crimson Tide tight end Cameron Latu (81) and Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback (9) on the sidelines during the College Football Playoff National Championship football game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Ohio State Buckeyes on January 11, 2021 at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL. (Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire)

When the Eagles cleaned house this past offseason, they fired every single positional coach on offense with the exception of two. One was Jeff Stoutland, an offensive line coach whose work since joining the Eagles can be seen as nothing short of magical. The other was WR Coach Aaron Moorehead.

This came as a slight surprise, especially given the team’s poor track-record of retaining wide receiver coaches. in fact, prior to Moorehead’s appointment, the Eagles had replaced their WR coach five seasons in a row. As far as continuity goes, the players had absolutely none of it when it came to their positional coach.

It’s intriguing then that in a year where the Eagles trade up to select Heisman-winning WR DeVonta Smith, the team opt to actually keep Moorehead around, especially considering the struggles endured by the position last season. If anything, that only further goes to show just how much the team believe in him.

Let’s not forget that Moorehead was once a wide receiver of the Indianapolis Colts, the franchise who the Eagles decided to poach a large chunk of their new coaches from. If there’s anyone that embodies the culture Sirianni is looking to firmly embed, it’s a coach that has played for that same franchise.

2020 was a year to forget for most Eagles wideouts, but it wasn’t without its glistening moments. After bursting onto the scene, Travis Fulgham led the NFL in receiving through his first four games, while Quez Watkins showed plenty of promise in limited action. Jalen Reagor and John Hightower may be remembered more for their struggles than their successes, but both had positives to take away from their rookie year.

Hightower actually led the NFL in ‘Average depth of target’ (22 yards), showing that the Eagles clearly view him as a burner, while Reagor was unable to really get going despite Carson Wentz missing several wide open touchdown passes where the TCU product had gained more than enough separation.

Oddly, the development of an extremely young receiving corps was probably one of the very few positives (at the very least a non-negative) to take from an absolutely dismal season. Towards the end of the year with Jalen Hurts at the helm, even players like JJ Arcega-Whiteside made a splash impact.

This year is an important one for the Eagles. It’s the beginning of a new era and one that has to be built on solid fundamentals. An endless carousel of positional coaches does nothing for the continued development of players, and the fact that the Eagles not only decided to keep Moorehead around, but only add one receiver during the offseason, says a lot about their confidence in his ability.

Howie Roseman should absolutely feel that way too. While at New Mexico, Moorehead learned under current Maryland head coach Mike Locksley. At Stanford, he learned under David Shaw and Derek Mason. At Virginia Tech, he coached under Frank Beamer. While at Texas A&M, he was with Kevin Sumlin. He reunited with Derek Mason at Vanderbilt. That’s quite the coaching tree to be a branch of.

If you needed a reminder of how collegiate wideouts performed under his guidance, here’s a refresher:

2019: Kalijah Lipscomb: 511 yards, 4 TD, 13 games
2018: Kalijah Lipscomb: 916 yards, 9 TD, 10 games
2017: Christian Kirk: 919 yards, 10 TD, 13 games
2016: Christian Kirk: 928 yards, 9 TD, 13 games
2015: Christian Kirk: 1,009 yards, 7 TD, 13 games
2014: Sammie Coates, 741 yards, 4 TD, 13 games
2013: Sammie Coates, 902 yards, 7 TD, 13 games

The Eagles didn’t go out and double-dip at wide receiver. They didn’t abandon ship on the trio of rookies selected last year. They opted against throwing in the towel on unproven talents and a very inexperienced group…and a lot of that is down to the confidence they have in WR coach Aaron Moorehead. It will be exciting to see how this group progresses as it enters a new chapter. With at least three years remaining on the contracts of those wideouts selected last year and more for Jalen Reagor & DeVonta Smith, the Eagles are going all-in on long-term development and might finally have the right man for the job.

Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire