As we inch closer to the start of the NFL season, expectations for rookie wideout Jalen Reagor are starting to grow.
In June, Doug Pederson stated that Reagor would only learn one wide receiver position this season, learning primarily from DeSean Jackson at the Z position. The only major difference between the X and Z positions is that the X typically lines up on the weak side of the formation, where the Z normally lines up on the strong side. The route combinations can also vary between the positions based on the type of offense being run.
In the Eagles iteration of the west coast system, the Z is usually the deep threat for the offense. It’s where Torrey Smith and Mike Wallace played during their short stints in Philly. The X is more of a possession receiver, which is why we’ve seen Alshon Jeffery man that spot over the past few years, and why the team drafted a guy like J.J. Arcega-Whiteside to back him up.
After initially being cautious with Reagor, it seems like the offensive coaching staff is going to let the rookie play all over the formation. During Reagor’s first press conference of the year, he made it clear that he’s been learning multiple WR positions throughout the offseason.
“They’ve just been emphasizing to me to learn X and Z and just to learn,” Reagor said. “Like I said, I pride myself on being adaptable to every situation. I feel like if I know the whole playbook rather than just X or Z, then it’ll make it easier to move me around. They’re emphasizing just to learn and take in everything.”
Reagor has experience playing in the slot as well from his time at TCU, so it’ll be exciting to see exactly where he fits into this Eagles offense.
While Reagor obviously wasn’t the most talented receiver in this year’s draft class, he may get more opportunities than any other rookie wideout in 2020.
With Marquise Goodwin opting out for the year, Reagor is the most well equipped receiver to step in for Jackson if he goes down again this season. There’s a good chance Jeffery isn’t ready for the start of the season either, and since he’s currently on the Active/PUP list, if he isn’t ready to go week 1 he’ll need to sit out for at least the first six weeks of the season.
That’s why the revelation that Reagor is now learning both the X and Z position is so important. It feels like the team is prepping him to step into that X role when and if Alshon can’t go week 1. JJAW may get a shot to earn that spot during camp, but my money is on Reagor to take that spot if given the opportunity.
As of right now, Reagor’s odds to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award is at +2000, 10th among all offensive rookies. That’s a pretty good bet to make, although I think the top-3 of Joe Burrow (+200), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (+700) and Tua Tagovailoa (+700) are probably more likely.
Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy and Ceedee Lamb are all ahead of Reagor odds wise, but I just don’t see any of them getting more targets than Reagor in 2020. Ruggs will have to compete with Hunter Renfrow for targets, Jeudy will have to compete with Courtland Sutton and Lamb will be competing with both Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.
Reagor is really only competing with Jackson at this point, and if he ends up slotting in at the X opposite of Jackson, he’ll likely get more targets. Of course both Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert will command several targets per game, but Reagor’s versatility lends itself to more opportunities in an offense like Pederson’s.
I know there aren’t that many fans who are overly excited for Reagor, but I also know that’ll change once they see him in action this year. Taking home the NFL OROTY award seems like a long shot right now, but once the season gets underway, don’t be surprised if Reagor firmly puts himself into that conversation.