There were a handful of question marks surrounding last year’s draft class heading into the 2020 season. Other than Miles Sanders, not one player from the 2019 class made an impact during their rookie campaigns.
First round pick Andre Dillard understandably didn’t play much last season because Jason Peters was still at his left tackle spot. But when he did see some playing time, his performance was inconsistent. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside on the other hand did play a substantial amount, logging 43% of the offensive snaps last season. But he failed to truly step up down the stretch when the team was depleted by injuries, finishing the year with just 10 catches and one touchdown.
A lot rides on these two second year players this year. Both will have starting roles on Doug Pederson’s offense and they’ll both be counted on throughout the season.
What we’ve heard out of camp so far has been mixed with Dillard and JJAW.
The offensive line has been scrutinized throughout camp, giving up sacks left and right during team periods. At the center of this criticism is Dillard, which is obviously a huge concern.
A lot of praise was given to Dillard throughout the offseason by his teammates, with Brandon Brooks telling local media that the second year tackle put on nearly 30 pounds of muscle. His overall strength was always a concern. He routinely had trouble holding up against bull rushers last season, and rarely did we see him push people around like an offensive lineman should.
Here’s just one example from the Eagles matchup with the Vikings last season. That’s a 250 pound linebacker doing that to him.
Brandon Lee Gowten, who covers the Eagles for Bleeding Green Nation, wrote this after watching Dillard during training camp this year:
“Not so good of a day for the Eagles’ 2019 first-round pick. Andre Dillard got pancaked into the back of Wentz’s legs by Joe Ostman. We all know the bull rush was a weakness for Dillard as a rookie and there was thought he’d improve in that regard since he’s added more muscle. But the extra 15 pounds clearly didn’t help on that rep and it could’ve been very costly if Wentz got seriously hurt. I can’t say that Dillard has been a disaster in camp but he’s hardly erasing doubt about him that was often raised throughout the offseason. Dillard has a lot to prove. I’d say my concern level with him is a 7 out of 10.”
If these kinds of struggle carry over into the regular season, I don’t know how long this coaching staff can wait before they throw Jason Peters back at LT. This team will go as far as Carson Wentz takes them, but if he’s under constant duress, there’s no way this offense will reach its full potential.
While Dillard hasn’t inspired any confidence during camp, JJAW has gotten a lot of people’s attention. He’s been rotating at the X position with Jalen Reagor, and according to reporters who were in attendance at Wednesday’s practice, Arcega-Whiteside had his best day of camp yet.
He was reportedly making acrobatic catches all practice, with his best catch coming in the end zone, where he snagged a touchdown with one hand and still managed to get both feet in bounds.
I’ve always been one to take everything we hear out of camp with a grain of salt, but it’s impossible not to get anxious or excited when we hear stuff like this during this strange year we find ourselves in. With no preseason games, the reports out of camp are really the only way we can get an idea of what this team will look like come week 1.
For the team’s sake, I hope both of these second year players can live up to expectations and help this team win ball games come September. If they disappoint like they did in their rookie outings, we may end up looking back on the 2019 draft class as one of the worst during Howie Roseman’s tenure.