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July 05, 2024

Eagles 2024 training camp preview: Wide receiver

Will the Eagles depth at receiver be a problem this season?

Eagles NFL
042624AJBrownDeVontaSmith Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports

DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown

Over the next three or so weeks (basically whenever there isn't other news to cover), we'll take a look at every player on the Philadelphia Eagles' roster, and how they fit with the team heading into training camp. Today we'll look at the wide receivers.

Previous training camp previews

Quarterback | Running back

First, the depth chart:

 WRA.J. Brown Johnny WilsonJoseph Ngata
Austin Watkins Jr.
 WRDeVonta Smith Parris CampbellJohn Ross
Shaquan Davis
 WRBritain CoveyAinias SmithJacob Harris

The Eagles have one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL in Brown and Smith. Thereafter their depth is shaky, to put it kindly. 

A.J. Brown

Brown temporarily became the highest-paid receiver in the NFL after agreeing to a three-year extension worth $92 million. He will be under contract through 2029.

Brown was arguably the Eagles' best player in 2023. During the first half of the season, he had six consecutive games with at least 125 receiving yards, an NFL record.

  1. At Buccaneers: 9 catches, 131 yards
  2. Commanders: 9 catches, 175 yards, 2 TDs
  3. At Rams: 6 catches, 127 yards
  4. At Jets: 7 catches, 131 yards
  5. Dolphins: 10 catches, 137 yards, 1 TD
  6. At Commanders: 8 catches, 130 yards, 2 TDs

Brown eventually cooled off when the Eagles' offense as a whole sputtered down the stretch, but for a while when the Eagles' season was going well, he basically was the offense.

He finished with 106 catches for 1,456 yards and 7 TDs, but was unable to participate in the Eagles' embarrassing blowout loss to the Buccaneers in the playoffs with a knee injury suffered against the Giants Week 18.

DeVonta Smith

Smith was a good starter out of the gate his rookie season, and is quickly blossoming into a star receiver. Smith's stats his first three seasons in the NFL:

DeVonta Smith Rec Yards  YPCTD 
2021 64 916 14.3 
2022 95 1196 12.6 
2023 81 1066 13.2 

He also has 27 catches for 405 yards an 1 TD in five Eagles postseason games.

Like Brown, Smith signed a contract extension this offseason. The team exercised his fifth-year option ($15,591,000) and tacked on three additional years worth $25 million per year thereafter. He will be under contract through 2028.

Britain Covey

Covey was a very good returner for the Eagles during the second half of the 2022 season. The team foolishly cut him at 53-man cutdowns in 2023, and were lucky that no other teams claimed him off of waivers. He rejoined the team and was arguably the best punt returner in the NFL.

The Eagles won't cut him in 2024. Still, it's not ideal for a player for take up a roster spot to be just a punt returner only, so if Covey can carve out some kind of a small role in the offense that would increase his value.

Parris Campbell

In the 2019 NFL Draft, the Eagles were deciding between selecting Campbell and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, ultimately landing on Arcega-Whiteside at 57th overall. Campbell went 59th overall to the Colts. Neither player panned out as their initial teams would have hoped. If the majority of Eagles fans had their way, the team would have instead taken DK Metcalf, who has 5332 career receiving yards and 43 career receiving TDs. Campbell and Arcega-Whiteside have combined for 1377 career receiving yards and 6 career TDs.

Campbell's year-by-year stats: 

Parris Campbell Rec Yards YPC TD 
2019 (Colts) 18 127 7.1 
2020 (Colts) 71 11.8 
2021 (Colts) 10 162 16.2 
2022 (Colts) 63 632 9.9 
2023 (Giants) 20 104 5.2 
TOTAL 117 1087 9.3 

Campbell blazed a 4.31 40 at the 2019 NFL Combine, but for such a fast player he has had an oddly low 9.3 yards per catch average over his career. In 2023 with the Giants, he had an almost impossibly low 5.2 yards per catch.

If we were to use the number of first-team reps during spring practices as an indicator, Campbell seems to have the inside track for the WR3 job, though certainly he'll have to earn it.

Ainias Smith

Smith was a fifth-round pick in the 2024 draft. He is a versatile weapon who played some running back in addition to receiver at Texas A&M, and he averaged 15.0 yards per catch in 2023. The Eagles like his ability as a route runner, and as a runner after the catch. Additionally, if Kellen Moore is going to bring some creativity to the Eagles, Smith is a guy who can be effective on jet sweeps and other gadget'y plays. Some highlights:

Smith's career stats aren't eye-popping. His best season was in 2023, when he had 53 catches for 795 yards (15.0 YPC) and 2 TDs, but he was a standout during Senior Bowl practices. He also has added value as a returner. He had 82 career punt returns for 836 yards (10.2 YPR) and he took two to the house.

I thought Smith struggled in spring practices, though it's fair to note that he was coming off rehab of a stress fracture in his shin.

Johnny Wilson

Wilson was a sixth-round pick in the 2024 draft. At 6'6, 231, he is a huge freak of nature playing receiver. His career began at Arizona State, but he transferred to FSU for the 2022 season. In 2022, he had 43 catches for 897 yards and (20.9 YPC) and 5 TDs. Here are most of those receptions:

In 2023, Wilson had a somewhat disappointing 41 catches for 617 yards (15.0 YPC) and 2 TDs. There was some thought that Wilson could move to tight end because of his size, but the Eagles announced him as a wide receiver, so that's where he'll begin his pro career. After watching him a bit during spring practices, I am of the opinion that he moves pretty well for a receiver his size. His Combine measurables were also impressive for a 6'6 receiver:

Wilson can play outside, but FSU also used him at times as a big slot. He can make plays down the field with his size (again, 20.9 YPC in 2022), but he's also a red zone target.

Joseph Ngata

Ngata got out to a great start in 2023 training camp as an undrafted rookie, consistently catching a lot of passes in each practice. However, he did not do much in the preseason games, and spent the entire season on the practice squad. He'll have a chance to show improvement in camp in 2024 and maybe push for a roster spot. He got some first-team reps in OTAs when Smith wasn't in attendance.

John Ross

Ross is best known for running a 4.22 40 yard dash at the 2017 Combine, which was the fastest in NFL Combine history until 2024, when Xavier Worthy ran a 4.21.

Ross was subsequently selected ninth overall by the Cincinnati Bengals, where he played for four years, before signing with the Giants in 2021. His career stats:

 John RossRec Yards YPC TD 
2017 0.0 
2018 21 210 10.0 
2019 28 506 18.1 
2020 17 8.5 
2021 11 224 20.4 

Ross was out of the NFL in 2022. He signed with the Chiefs in 2023, but retired in late July.

The Eagles signed a pair of veteran receivers this offseason in DeVante Parker and Parris Campbell. A spot opened up when Parker retired. Ross is a longshot to make the 53-man roster but the Eagles got a look at him this spring and will get an extended look throughout training camp.

During spring practices, it was clear to see that Ross can still run, at a minimum.

Jacob Harris

Harris was previously listed as a 6'5, 211-pound tight end. He was a Rams fourth-round pick in 2021 who has also spent time with the Jaguars. He has one career target, which was actually a 6-yard TD.

In OTAs, Harris caught my eye. There were two plays in which he ran deep routes against rookie first-round CB Quinyon Mitchell. On the first one he had a step on Mitchell, who was forced to get a little grabby on the play. The ball was overthrown.

And then later, Harris battled with Mitchell on a 50-50 deep ball down the field. I thought Harris was more physical on the play and was able to break free from Mitchell momentarily, but the ball bounced off Harris' chest while shaking off Mitchell.

My initial thought was, "Oh hey that guy can run." I looked up his 40 time, and sure enough... he ran a 4.39 (!) 40 at 6'5, 219 at UCF's pro day in 2021. He didn't finish on any of the passes that went his way, but he has size and athleticism. Consider me mildly intrigued.

Austin Watkins, Jr.

Watkins was an undrafted free agent in 2021 who has bounced around between the NFL, CFL, and USFL. He had a great preseason with the Browns, leading the team in receiving in three of their four preseason games, totaling 16 catches for 257 yards and 2 TDs. He too has some size, at 6'3, 210. 

Shaquan Davis

Another tall guy. Davis is listed at 6'5, 215. He had 934 receiving yards and 11 TDs with South Carolina State in 2022 and was a Saints undrafted rookie free agent signing in 2023. 

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