Eagles Training Camp Positional Preview: Wide Receiver

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Rose Bowl Game Semifinal Game – Notre Dame v Alabama
ARLINGTON, TX – JANUARY 01: Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) warms up prior to the College Football Playoff Semifinal Rose Bowl Game between Notre Dame and Alabama on January 1, 2021 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. (Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire)

One of the most polarizing positions on the Eagles roster is wide receiver, as it has been for years. With training camp just around the corner, all eyes are on the newcomer and the “veterans” that have been tasked to help skyrocket the development of Jalen Hurts.

So who will be WR3? Will there be a surprise cut? Let’s take a look at the players vying to catch passes from #1.

The Locks

DeVonta Smith

This goes without saying, right?

The new WR1 has had quite the 2020-2021:

  • Heisman winner
  • AP College Player of the Year
  • Maxwell Award
  • Biletnikoff Award
  • Walter Camp Award
  • Sporting News College Player of the Year
  • ESPY for Best College Athlete

Have the Eagles ever drafted ANYONE this heralded?

At his football camp in Alabama and was asked if he’s ready to be “the guy” in Philadelphia:

With videos surfacing everywhere showing how hands on Coach Sirianni has been with Smith in developing his routes (as if he needed improvement in that regard), the sky’s the limit for DeVonta.

Jalen Reagor

Locked into a WR2 role, Jalen Reagor is looking to prove the doubters wrong and defend his draft position.

Battling injuries and receiving inconsistent QB play, Reagor was never really able to show what he could do over a full season. Despite the hurdles, Reagor was second on the team in yards of separation with 3.3. He was among the league average of average yards of cushion (average yards between player and defender they’re lined up against) at 6.5 and was 17th among all qualified WRs in targeted air yards with 13.9 (Hightower would’ve been higher but did not qualify due to not meeting the 43 target minimum).

Jalen Reagor thrives with the ball in his hands and fans were clamoring for Doug Pederson to use the first round WR in ways they were using Greg Ward in. Here’s to hoping that Nick Sirianni will unlock the potential we saw in 2020, with a move to the slot likely just around the corner.

The Battle within the Locks

Travis Fulgham vs Greg Ward

Who will be WR3? All signs point to Travis Fulgham taking on a full time “X” role in the offense to prove his five week barrage on the league wasn’t a fluke:

Heading into the Eagles’ 2020 bye week, Fulgham was unstoppable:

Then Alshon Jeffery returned.

Greg Ward has been Mr. Reliable when all the other WRs were unreliable. Despite all of our frustrations when he would go back for a punt, receive an end-around, or get thrown a screen pass, Greg Ward has been a constant, sure-handed presence for the Eagles, his 67.09 catch percentage was best among Eagles WRs. He led the team in yards of separation with 3.5 but was only targeted 6.1 air yards, which is 6th lowest. Deebo Samuel was targeted just 2.1 air yards, but his league leading 4.6 yards of separation and league leading 12.3 yards after the catch show just how dangerous he is with the ball in his hands. Greg Ward’s aforementioned 3.5 yards of separation coupled with his 3.0 YAC show the opposite.

Both Fulgham and Ward will be back for the 2021 season, but their roles remain murky.

The Battle for WR 5/6

The Eagles will most likely carry six wide receivers on the active roster come September 1st. With Smith, Reagor, Fulgham, and Ward occupying 1-4, who will get 5 & 6?

Quez Watkins

The heavy favorite for meaningful snaps is Quez Watkins. If you haven’t seen all of his workout videos & route running development, type it into google. Watkins has been a man on a mission this offseason to improve his craft and his 3.72 yards of separation he averaged between weeks 16 and 17 last season illustrate how he can get past defenders for the deep ball. His catch percentage, 53.8%, has a lot of room for improvement and adding more routes to his arsenal will only strengthen his hold on WR5.

John Hightower

The Liam Jenkins crush needs a huge training camp to prove his spot on the team, even after only one season.

Despite having deep ball ability, Hightower’s 34.5% catch percentage is abysmal.

That catch percentage was the lowest among all WRs with at least 25 targets (Hightower had 29).

Despite those struggles, Hightower’s speed could give him another year to develop, this time with WR whisperer Nick Sirianni.

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

Yeah, Watkins and Hightower are locks for 5 & 6.

Mr. Know-It-All Adam Caplan mentioned a few days ago that the chances that JJAW makes the final roster are slim and his “second round justification” is gone. Sirianni loved his blocking WRs in Indianapolis, which makes JJAW valuable in his offense, but he’s going to have to prove his more than a fumble recovering WR to justify a spot on the roster.

Michael Walker

Walker signed with the Eagles on 6/9 (nice). More of a special teams’ ace than a contributor to an offense, Walker’s ability on kick returns and special teams coverage may make him the sixth active WR on game days while Hightower and JJAW take a seat.

The Long Shot

Jhamon Ausbon

Ausbon sat out his senior year at Texas A&M due to COVID concerns and signed with the Eagles as an UDFA in May. At A&M, Ausbon totaled 147 receptions, 1,818 yards, and eight TDs in 34 games (averages of 4.3 rec, 53.47 yards, and .24 TDs per game). Ausbon spent his freshman year at A&M with current Eagles WR coach Aaron Moorehead. He has some talent, but he’ll most likely develop that talent on the practice squad.

Names around the league that the Eagles can add to the WR room

  • N’Keal Harry – Patriots
  • Antonio Callaway – Chiefs
  • Christian Kirk – Cardinals
  • Dezmon Patmon – Colts
  • Dante Pettis – Giants
  • John Ross – Giants
  • Steve Sims Jr. – Washington
  • Anthony Miller – Chicago
  • Miles Boykin – Baltimore
  • Jakeem Grant – Miami

Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire