2020 was just not the Eagles’ year. Their franchise quarterback seemingly forgot how to play football, their Super Bowl winning head coach looked completely out of his league at times, and of course, injuries.
Aside from a select group of players, nearly everyone on the Eagles roster struggled last season. One of the most notable being 2020 first round pick Jalen Reagor.
The 21st overall pick came into 2020 with high expectations. Reagor possessed the speed and deep threat ability that the Eagles offense had lacked the previous season. With DeSean Jackson on the final leg of his career, Reagor was looked at as the heir apparent to one of the best deep threats this league has ever seen.
But as we all know, Reagor’s rookie year did not go as planned. Missing five games with injury, Reagor finished the 2020 season with 31 receptions for 396 yards and just one touchdown. Among rookies, Reagor was ninth in receptions, 11th in receiving yards and 10th in yards per reception. And of course, he was taken one spot ahead of Justin Jefferson on draft night, the guy who ended up leading rookie wideouts in nearly every statistical category.
It doesn’t matter how you look at it, Reagor disappointed in 2020. But, does all the fault fall on his shoulders? Absolutely not.
He’d be the first to tell you he has to better next season, he definitely has room for improvement in a few areas of his game. But a lot of factors played into his subpar rookie outing. For starters, he had the worst starting quarterback in football throwing him the ball. There’s a reason not a single Eagles skill player had over 60 catches or over 600 yards receiving.
While Jalen Hurts is still an unknown at this point, I think it’s fair to say he’ll be better than 16 touchdowns to 15 interceptions, a completion percentage of 57.4 and a QBR of 49.6. There’s nowhere to go but up for Hurts.
Doug Pederson also didn’t do a great job scheming up ways to get the ball in Reagor’s hands last season. The most creative way they got him the ball was on quick screens. Rarely did we see him motion into the backfield, he was only given four opportunities to return punts (one of them going for a touchdown), and we hardly ever saw him run a quick slant or out in order to get the ball in his hands quickly.
This won’t be an issue with Nick Sirianni. His background is in coaching wide receivers. Every time he talks about the position, you can hear the passion in his voice and you get the sense that he clearly knows what he’s talking about. He’ll find ways to get Reagor the ball in open space, and he’ll be able to coach Reagor up on certain nuances in order to get the most out his route running.
The DeVonta Smith factor
Some fans read the DeVonta Smith pick in this year’s draft as a ‘do-over’ for their selection of Reagor in last year’s draft. I don’t see it that way at all. I see it as a paring of two first round talents who can complement each other in the Eagles offense for years to come.
While I love what Reagor brings to the table, his skill set isn’t that of a No. 1 wide receiver — at least not yet. He’s someone who should benefit greatly from a true No. 1 wideout being inserted into the lineup, and that’s exactly what Smith is.
Smith will lineup all over the field, but I imagine he’ll see the majority of his snaps come at the Z position. Reagor will likely play at the X primarily, while also lining up all over the formation depending on the situation. Smith will command the defense’s top corner or the majority of the secondary’s attention on every snap. I think he’s up for it — it’s not like he was overlooked by defenses in the SEC. They keyed in on him every snap and it didn’t matter.
This will allow Reagor to operate more freely. Whether Sirianni opts to bring him in motion to get him in the backfield, or short motions him into the slot where he can shoot across the field, the defense just won’t be as focused on Reagor with Smith on the field.
I’m not sure how the majority of fans feel about this wideout duo, but it’s one of the things I am most excited about heading into the 2021 season. Everyone struggled last season, it’s not fair to judge Reagor based on his output in 2020. With a somewhat normal offseason of work, and Smith on the opposite side of the field, I expect Reagor to have a big season in his sophomore campaign.