August 17, 2020
On April 23 — a date that seems lightyears ago — the Eagles picked Jalen Reagor as their newest shiny toy for franchise quarterback Carson Wentz.
Wentz, as readers know, has had a receiving corps propped up by duct tape and baling wire during stretches of his seasons in Philadelphia, and having a reliable and healthy group of receivers, preferably ones with speed, is something Eagles fans could get excited about.
It's been nearly four months since Reagor was drafted, and finally, for the first time with pads on, Wentz was able to throw with him Monday, as the Eagles took the field for their first practices in front of media members.
"Having Jalen has been a lot of fun just to work with him," Wentz said on a Zoom call following practice. "He's an explosive athlete — you can see that with his route running ability. You turn on the highlight reels you see what he can do with the ball in his hands... I know what he brings as a threat to the defense. He picks up things very well and he's always asking why we do things a certain way.
"I see an extremely bright future with him and I'm excited to help him become the player he dreams of being."
Wentz is entering Year 5 of his NFL career and is about as healthy as he's ever been, even embracing his 250 pound "dad bod" after having his first child this offseason.
"I'm a dad," Wentz joked. "I'll take it."
But without the practice reps, of which there would typically have been hundreds by now without a global pandemic thwarting most of the NFL's offseason, Wentz and Reagor would be much more attuned and further along building chemistry.
"There's no way to make up of the reps you lose on the grass, the spring reps. Those are valuable," Wentz said of Reagor and other rookie pass catchers like John Hightower and Quez Watkins. "I have seen a willingness and desire to learn and to learn quick. I have been throughly impressed with all those young guys. This was the first time we threw pads on. We have a couple weeks before we start preparing for Washington and we have a lot of behind-the-scenes things to work on."
Which means, perhaps of interest to fantasy football managers, there may be an increased reliance on veterans in the early few weeks of the season.
"He's coaching up the young players, which is great to see," head coach Doug Pederson said of Wentz Monday morning. "He's working well with DeSean [Jackson] and Greg Ward, J.J. [Arcega-Whiteside] the guys that were on the field at the end of the season last year and getting a really good rapport with them. [He has] really [taken] ownership in this pandemic and where we are as a football team."
Simply having a fast receiver with a solid college track record, like Reagor, is great on paper. But there is an enormous amount of practice, studying and bonding that needs to occur for a QB and WR to become a dynamic duo. The Eagles — like every other NFL team trying to integrate new weapons into an old scheme — have their work cut out for them.
"We went out and got some young guys and you see the speed of Reagor and Quez and Hightower," Wentz added. "We all know what DeSean can do — we saw what he did in his one game healthy — and all of those things will open the middle... I think they'll create more explosive plays down the field without a doubt."
Training camp will continue to be restricted, and weird, and just how (and when, and if) players will round into shape is anyone's guess. It's a conundrum Wentz and Pederson are doing their best to find answers too.
"With the pandemic and where we are in preseason with no preseason games, the first thing that stands out is the first game is a real game," Pederson said. "It's a game that matters, a game that counts. So one of the things we have to do as a staff, and not only just a coaching staff but personnel staff, is make sure we have the right guys going down to Washington for Week 1 and you always want to — obviously you want to be competitive. Without having games to really evaluate and critique, mistakes get magnified in regular-season games.
"So we have to do our best to eliminate those in the next couple weeks. In practices, it's my job to put our team in situations to understand that out on the practice field so that we can minimize those issues when we get ready for Washington."
The Eagles will have just over three weeks to work out the kinks.
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