Heading into this offseason, acquiring a free agent wideout or using a high draft pick to get one seemed like a foregone conclusion. The Eagles receiving corps was brutal last season, ranking as the worst group of wideouts in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus.
With the free agency period winding down, Howie Roseman has yet to add anything to his receivers group. And after his recent comments during a virtual conference call with the Philly media, it doesn’t appear he will add a wideout until the draft.
Who knows, that could’ve just been a smoke screen to throw teams off his true plans, but it still feels like there was some truth in his comments. I do believe the coaching staff has more faith in their receivers than the general public does.
In particular, I think this team has a lot of faith in J.J. Arcega-Whiteside taking a big leap in development this offseason.
It’s fair to scoff at that idea, but in reality, the sample size on JJAW is simply too small to accurately assess his game. He played about 42 percent of the Eagles offensive snaps in 2019, and only got targeted 22 times on those snaps.
He finished the season with 10 catches for 169 yards and a touchdown. Those aren’t numbers to write home about by any means, but Arcega-Whiteside only dropped one ball thrown his way and converted seven first downs on his 10 total catches.
He may not have the speed you’d like to see in your starting wide receiver, but I don’t think his struggles last season were indicative of his lacking physical traits. A lot of his struggles came with the mental side of the game in my opinion.
During the season, we heard head coach Doug Pederson say numerous times that they didn’t want to throw too much information at the young wideout. He was specifically Alshon Jeffery’s backup, not DeSean Jackson or Nelson Agholor’s.
With an entire offseason to prep for the upcoming season and digest the playbook, expecting a far more productive season out of JJAW doesn’t feel that far fetched. Especially since it’s unlikely Jeffery will be ready for the start of the season — Arcega-Whiteside will get almost all of the reps with the first team through OTAs and training camp.
A lot of this also depends on which direction Howie goes in the draft. If he opts to go wideout in round one, J.J. could be a backup wideout heading into camp. If the team doesn’t select a wideout until round two or three, it’ll likely be J.J.’s job to lose.
I haven’t given up hope on the young wideout yet. He’s only 23-years-old and has the prototypical size you want in a no. 1 wideout. It took Agholor two seasons until he finally popped in 2017.
Regardless, I expect Pederson to play Arcega-Whiteside much more in 2020. Hopefully he comes into camp ready to go, both physically and mentally.