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February 21, 2022

John McMullen: Eagles have to be honest at wide receiver position

Opinion Eagles
Jalen_Reagor_3_Eagles_49ers_Frese.jpg Kate Frese/PhillyVoice

Eagles WR Jalen Reagor

Everything is fluid in the NFL and anyone with the ability to bring even a modicum of objectivity to the table can empirically understand that J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has nothing to do with Jalen Regaor other than the obvious: they’re teammates who happen to both be receivers and have dramatically underachieved early in their NFL careers for the Philadelphia Eagles.

The fact that the Eagles missed on Arcega-Whiteside in the 2019 NFL draft started a years-long domino effect the organization is still dealing with, however.

After JJAW failed to add anything as a rookie Howie Roseman and Co. had to take another swing in the 2020 process at WR, foolishly deciding Reagor over Justin Jefferson (and many others you will soon find out) in the first round was the way to go.

From there another top-tier asset had to be used last April with the Eagles’ flailing at another pitch down 0-2 in the count.

The good news there is that Philadelphia was so bad in Doug Pederson's final season as head coach, the organization’s draft position took out some of the margins for error although Roseman did have to trade back up the board after originally going down to keep DeVonta Smith away from a division rival.

The early returns look more than promising on Smith after the Alabama Heisman Trophy winner became the franchise’s top receiving threat in years as a rookie with a team-high 64 receptions for 916 yards.

As good as Smith could be moving forward, however, his selection and subsequent success does somewhat obfuscate the fact that need forced the pick and eliminated other players that could have been even better for the organization long-term at different positions

More so, in a league where you need multiple playmakers, Philadelphia is again about to enter talent-acquisition season for the fourth straight year with a somewhat significant need at WR because of the failed development of JJAW and Reagor, players who can’t even be branded as solid complementary players at this stage.

So much so that the Eagles’ current WR2 is Quez Watkins, a raw sixth-round pick in Reagor’s draft class who can run.

Those in town who went with the green tint at America’s Best will defend Watkins like he’s some kind of burgeoning star because they are grading on a curve and the provincial nature of a local fan base doesn’t come with a heaping side of context.

Super Bowl LVI is still close enough in the rear-view mirror to understand what the Los Angles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals did at the WR position for their respective quarterbacks.

The champs were lucky enough to draft and develop Cooper Kupp, a third-round pick in 2017 who had a historic season that could make Jerry Rice blush, following up the receiving triple crown with a Super Bowl MVP performance in which attrition forced Matthew Stafford to treat Kupp like a life raft late in the 23-20 comeback Rams win.

What too many don’t remember, however, is that the Rams started their run with the underrated Robert Woods and again ex-Eagles star DeSean Jackson as the plan to complement Kupp.

Jackson didn’t work out of course but L.A. general manager Les Snead always had his eyes on the prize and decided to offer Odell Beckham Jr. some nice weather as the backdrop to his reclamation tour, signing the one-time superstar in November.

The potential murderer’s row of Kupp, Woods and OBJ never materialized because Woods tore his ACL in practice the day after the Rams brought in Beckham.

What seemed like bad luck just revealed itself as the best insurance plan ever as Beckham slowly ramped up into being one of the most dangerous the No. 2s in the NFL and Van Jefferson, the 57th pick in 2020, bumped up a notch to haul in 50 receptions for 802 yards and six touchdowns.

For comparison’s sake, Reagor, who was selected 26 spots before Jefferson, has 64 receptions for 696 yards and three TDs in his two full seasons in the league.

Admittedly Regaor has never had a high-volume thrower like Stafford and when OBJ went down with his own ACL tear in the second quarter of the Super Bowl and Jefferson was perhaps preoccupied with the fact his wife was very close to delivering and in fact went into labor shortly after the game ended, the Rams were finally up against it.

Sean McVay’s offense bogged down a bit when forced to rely on Ben Skowronek, a rookie seventh-round pick. Also remember, that was essentially WR5 from the original plan and the Rams still found a way to get it done because their top option was that good.

As far as the runner-ups?

Well, the Bengals only had one of the best rookie receivers in history, Ja’Marr Chase, buoyed by Tee Higgins, another member of the 2020 draft class selected 12 spots after Reagor, who followed up a rookie season similar to Smith (67-906-6) with 74 receptions for 1,091 yards, and Tyler Boyd, one of the best slot option in the game, who has two 1,000-yard seasons under his belt.

Ask yourself where Watkins would fit in with each of those two teams and you start to realize just how far behind the Eagles are at WR.

Starting with three first-round picks this upcoming April (Nos. 15, 16, and 19) the Eagles again have to consider WR again with one of them but it’s time to admit a shortcoming here.

Maybe the toughest thing to do when it comes to team building is being honest with yourself.

The Eagles' poor development of WRs has now spanned two coaching staffs and multiple drafts. Just as the organization should take pride in its ability to develop competent offensive linemen time and time again, it should be cognizant that receivers have been an issue.

The next move at WR should be toward demonstrated performance elsewhere and a finished product in free agency. Names like D.J. Chark, Christian Kirk, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Michael Gallup, despite his January ACL tear, should be at the forefront of a lot of discussion at the NovaCare Complex.

Bringing a proven commodity in gives you the best of both worlds – a competent WR2 and the ability for Nick SIrianni’s staff, which was billed as one that can teach with perceived expertise at the receiver position, to continue to bring along Smith and Watkins or even begin the reclamation or Reagor or JJAW.

John McMullen is a contributor to, and covers the Eagles and the NFL for Sports Illustrated and JAKIB Media. He’s also the co-host of “Birds 365,” a daily streaming show covering the Eagles and the NFL and the host of “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at Follow John on Twitter.