I’m tired of this ground and pound. Andy Reid’s out there shaking his head as he makes his way through another sloppy joe.
Eagles are meant to fly.
With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at the current state of the Eagles’ pass-catching unit along with one bold prediction you can bank for the end of 2021.
Just so we’re clear, I’m aware of just how counterintuitive this sounds. The Eagles’ ground game has been absolutely thrashing through their opponents over the last three weeks at a clip of 208.7 yards per game.
Just hear me out.
The Eagles won’t face a top-fifteen passing defense in the NFL for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, they’ll go head-to-head with three of the top eight rushing defenses to this point. That’s a fantastic opportunity to hit the sky.
Thusly, as Jalen Hurts comes off one of his most efficient games of 2021, let’s take a look at Philadelphia’s potential progression through the air by examining this young stable of wideouts.
Let Our Bird’s Fly
Watkins finished Sunday in Denver with four receptions on 33 yards, which isn’t spectacular, however, six targets have him trending upwards. This could have helped too:
So let’s talk usage rate.
Watkins has transformed into a legitimate top-three pass-catcher for this team while we’ve seen the Jalen Reagor stock hit an all-time low.
Over the last three weeks, Watkins has played at least 89% of all offensive snaps. As Hurts continues to develop as a passer, at the very least, Watkins should continue to receive opportunities.
Watkins actually leads the Eagles with eleven yards per target, tied with Dallas Goedert, and he’s catching 70.3% of all balls thrown his way, 8.5% higher than Devonta Smith. These are good signs of what’s to come.
Bold Prediction: Watkins’ average of 3.7 targets per game will see an immediate bump in the coming weeks and he will finish 2021 as the Eagles’ second-leading receiver, behind only DeVonta Smith and edging out Dallas Goedert.
The biggest plays he’s made this season have involved a zebra and his yellow flags. You can blame the run-heavy scheme but Reagor has just 19 total offensive yards over his last three contests. 19.
The Eagles need to do something to get him involved and this isn’t it:
It’s almost as if Nick Sirianni just watched his TCU audition tape and hit CTRL + P.
I understand if you’re not ready to give up on the young man but they need to try something new. With Miles Sanders returning, touches will be few and far between but let’s put Reagor in the backfield. Maybe a little I-Formation gives the second-year receiver a little juice.
Bold Prediction: Reagor finishes the season with a taste of tailback. I really think he could complement a Sanders-Jordan Howard combination. He just needs to try not to run backward.
The advertising behind Smith & Hurts finally paid off in the Mile-High City. This one should come with a warning label. Do not consume if you or a loved one is allergic to the Wildcard Round.
With the passing attack ideally trending upwards, we saw our real first flash of what could be an actual HIT on a first-round wideout.
That’s not to say Smith hasn’t struggled. Although he leads the team in receiving yards (603) and touchdowns (4), he’s only catching 61.8% of his total targets (lowest of any receiver on the current roster). By no means, all his fault but that tells me there’s room for improvement as he and his young quarterback continue to develop.
Bold Prediction: Smith makes up ground in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race and scores eight touchdowns in his final seven games, finishing with twelve total. Apologies to Jamar Chase.
Goedert has been a machine since the departure of Zach Ertz.
Since Ertz left for Arizona, Goedert’s averaging 15.2 yards per reception and has been responsible for 31% of the Eagles’ total passing offense. Not to mention, he needs just 178 yards to eclipse his career-high receiving total of 607.
Goedert also leads Philadelphia in yards after the catch (204) and, like Watkins, averages eleven yards per target.
Eagles fans have been waiting for this since the Birds jumped Godert’s namesake in the 2018 NFL Draft.
He also may have the best hands on the team.
Bold Prediction: Goedert may be on the shelf following a concussion that knocked him out of the game in Denver, but you can expect big things down the stretch.
The New York Jets have allowed the most yards (1,105) and touchdowns (14) to opposing tight-ends. I believe we’re looking at a 150 yard, two-touchdown performance to truly cement Goedert’s place as Philadelphia’s tight-end for the 2020s.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire