Is there still hope for Eagles WR John Hightower?

NFL: OCT 18 Ravens at Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 18: Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver John Hightower (82) warms up during the game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Philadelphia Eagles on October 18, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (https://phillysportsnetwork.com/2021/08/30/eagles-53-break/

The Eagles announced on Thursday that WR John Hightower has signed a futures contract. This comes a week later than pretty much every other player to sign the same deal and many believed that the former fifth-round pick was left out in the cold. The good news is that he’s back…but what’s his realistic upside?

Hightower’s rookie year was an interesting one. He flew out of the gates and notched 167 yards in his opening 7 games, but also suffered some pretty embarrassing drops. His route-running was exceptional, but the cherry on the cake was nowhere to be found.

After Jalen Reagor and Alshon Jeffery returned, he was buried on the depth chart and was never able to come up for air. Interestingly, he actually led the NFL in ‘Average depth of target’ (22 yards), showing that he can not only get open consistently, but that the Eagles view him as a burner.

You’d assume that a new coaching regime and depleted positional group would present a real opportunity for the Boise State product and it did. But he failed to take advantage and was stuck behind Quez Watkins. Jalen Reagor would be the go-to Z and Watkins would spend over 60% of his snaps working out of the slot, leaving Hightower twiddling his thumbs on the practice squad.

The catch now is that Jalen Reagor, as we all know, offered very little in the way of anything in 2021. Watkins should’ve solidified himself as the go-to slot weapon for Jalen Hurts, but it’s surprising that Sirianni didn’t experiment plays with Hightower at the Z sooner. In fact, he had only two offensive snaps throughout the entire year.

The Eagles do still need a solid Z-receiver, but it all depends on how they want to build the corps. Do they want speed next to DeVonta Smith, or do they want a possession receiver? If the answer is A), there’s at least some hope for Hightower. But with such a strong free agency group and a trio of first-round picks at Howie’s disposal, Hightower will be fighting an uphill battle regardless of what the outcome is.

Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire

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