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June 06, 2019

What they're saying: Wentz 'is a great pick' for MVP and everyone loves Arcega-Whiteside

Plus, winners and losers from Eagles OTAs, which ended a day early thanks to Pederson

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Carroll - Eagles Stock J.J. Arcega-Whiteside Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside at an Eagles OTA.

With mandatory minicamp starting next week at the NovaCare Complex, Thursday was supposed to be the final practice of the Eagles OTAs. Instead, Doug Pederson decided to not only give his guys a day off, but also took them out for a little team bonding session, much like he did during OTAs back in 2017 — and we all know what happened that year. 

Back in 2017, the Birds went paintballing. This time around, the headed over to South Bowl for a little bowling. And the results were, well, mixed. 

What the hell kind of form is that, Kamu? 

Not shown was Rasul Douglas, who told NBC Sports Philadelphia's Dave Zangaro last year that he has a 220 average

While the Eagles are getting a day off, your appetite for Eagles news likely isn't. Don't worry, we've got you covered with the latest edition of What They're Saying...

Well, that really narrows it down

Bill Barnwell | ESPN

Not too long ago, ESPN's Louis Riddick tweeted out that he believes Carson Wentz is going to be the MVP of the 2019 NFL season. 

Eagles players and coaches were obviously asked about that assessment of their fourth-year quarterback, and many inside NovaCare echoed Riddick's sentiment. His colleague, Bill Barnwell, likes where Riddick's head is at.

"It's a great pick given what we know about MVP winners," Barnwell writes. "History tells us the ideal pick is an ascending quarterback who hasn't won the award recently, plays for a great team, and is likely to improve in 2019. Wentz fits all those criteria."

And although he checks all the boxes, it's way too early to start talking about awards for a season that hasn't even started yet. But that didn't stop Barnwell from trying, as he tried to narrow down a potential list of players who could also find themselves in the running for the MVP award. He wound up with more than a few... 

Naturally, I started thinking about possible competitors with Wentz for the award and who might represent this year's Mahomes. The five first-round quarterbacks from the 2018 draft are the closest comps to where Mahomes was a year ago, but they're hardly the only long shots. He wasn't the most likely candidate this time in 2018, but he was a plausible candidate.

And when you start using history to plot out plausible MVP candidates in 2019, the list gets big. Quickly. By my count, there are 233 players who history suggests could have some semblance of a shot at winning NFL MVP in 2019.  [espn.com]

You'll have to head over to ESPN see if any other Eagles made his list.

Wait, his nickname is Arcegatron?

Sheil Kapadia | The Athletic

There's been quite a bit written about rookie wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside this week as the Stanford product has been turning heads down at OTAs. But Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic went down to Roebuck, S.C. and got a behind-the-scenes look at what made JJAW into the player (and person) that he is today. 

There are a lot of powerful moments in this story — from his mom's battle with cancer to JJ's near-fatal car accident — and I highly recommend reading the entire thing. A few weeks ago, in a previous WTS, we linked to Tim McManus' story about the bond between JJAW and his grandmother.

But this story was my personal favorite. After playing basketball — both his parents played professionally — and football growing up, there was a crucial moment in a big high school game that solidified JJAW's path toward the gridiron and away from his parents' profession on the hardwood. 

During a high school game against Hillcrest his junior year, Dorman trailed 19-14 late in the fourth quarter, needing a touchdown to take the lead. Coach Dave Gutshall called a timeout and dialed up a play to JJ. That’s where he wanted the ball to go, regardless of the coverage.

“I said, ‘It’s the last play of the game, we’re gonna throw the ball to JJ. Unless there’s somebody standing in the end zone all by himself, we’re throwing the ball to JJ,’” Gutshall recalls.

The offense came out of the timeout and lined up at the 36-yard line. Hillcrest had three guys on Arcega-Whiteside, or as Gutshall puts it, “They had everybody but the cheerleaders guarding him.”

The quarterback looked over to the sideline to see what he should do. Gutshall told him to stick with the play. JJ ran a corner route, and the ball came his way.

“It was our corner of the end zone, I’m standing on the sideline, I’m looking on the sideline, I cannot see JJ. That’s how covered he is,” says Gutshall, leaning forward in his chair with excitement. “And all of a sudden, you saw one hand come up and one foot comes down in that corner, and we win the football game. It was one of the most miraculous catches I’ve ever seen.”

That was when JJ says he knew he was a football player.  [theathletic.com]

I'd really love to see the video of that catch, although if he continues to play like he has at OTAs, there will be plenty more JJAW highlights in the years to come.

Say my name (correctly)

Kevin Kinkead | Crossing Broad

Speaking (literally) of Arcega-Whiteside, we should probably make sure we're pronouncing his name correctly, especially if he's going to be a big part of this Eagles offense moving forward. As it turns out, most of us, myself included, haven't been... 

If I learned anything from Conner4Real, it's that people in Spain (where Arcega-Whiteside was born) pronounce "S" sounds as "TH." I mean, he wrote a whole thong about it...


If my "Popstar" references are too obscure for you, here's more from Kevin Kinkead of Crossing Broad:

José Joaquín Arcega-Whiteside was born in Zaragoza, Spain and moved to the U.S. when he was six. In Latin American Spanish, if the ‘C’ is followed by any letter other than ‘H,’ we would make an ‘S’ sound.

For example, the soccer player Carlos Salcedo is Carlos “Sal-say-doh,” yes?

But in Spain, a ‘C’ appearing before the letter ‘E’ would be pronounced like a “TH” sound instead. Hence, José Joaquín Are-Thay-Guh Whiteside.

You’ve seen this before with non-Catalonian Spanish athletes. For instance, golfer Jose Maria Olazabal – the ‘Z’ is pronounced as a ‘TH.’ Miguel Angel Jimenez, aka “The Mechanic,” is pronounced Him-Enn-Eth, not Him-Enn-Ezz. In Latin America Spanish, we pronounce the Z like an English Z, i.e. Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz.  [crossingbroad.com]

I hope someone passes this information along to Merrill Reese.

Winners only

Eliot Shorr-Parks | 94 WIP

More love for JJAW? More love for JJAW. 

Over at 94 WIP, ESP took a look at some winner and losers now that Eagles OTAs have wrapped up. Here's a look at two of his winners, neither of whom should surprise you based on the stories above. Our own Jimmy Kempski wrote about Wentz following Monday's open practice and about Arcega-Whiteside just yesterday.

Carson Wentz: The clear winner from the last two months is quarterback Carson Wentz. Wentz stole the show during OTAs for two reasons. First, he was a full participant and showed no signs that either the fractured back or torn ACL were bothering him. For the first time since the offseason following his rookie year, Wentz looked like a fully healthy and happy quarterback. The result was stellar play from Wentz. The quarterback’s accuracy, decision making and touch on his passes were all excellent, as he picked apart the Eagles’ defense in the practices that were open to the media. Wentz’s aced his first step towards a comeback season. 

Arcega-Whiteside: It can be hard for rookies to impress in OTAs. They are still learning the playbook and adjusting to life in the NFL. Arcega-Whiteside’s ability to win 50/50 balls, however, looks like it is going to make his transition to the NFL a quick one. Arcega-Whiteside showed off what he can do in the red zone, making a few contested catches for touchdowns during team drills. Arcega-Whiteside’s ability to control his body in the air and adjust to the ball is very similar to Alshon Jeffery.  Arcega-Whiteside should end up finding his way onto the field this season in the red zone.  [94wip.radio.com]

Rising or falling?

Mike Kaye | NJ.com

Over at NJ.com, Mike Kaye sorted some players based on whether their stock is trending up or down. Naturally, Arcega-Whiteside was one of the guys whose stock is on the rise, but I feel like we've given him enough attention as it is. So here's a look at another guy on the rise whose name I've seen a few times today, plus a look at one of the Eagles running backs who can't afford to see his stock fall if he hopes to make the 53-man roster. 

Stock up: Deiondre’ Hall

Hall came into the offseason program as an afterthought. While he had a role on special teams, Hall barely played on defense last year. However, he has been given the opportunity to play with the second-team defense as of late. He really stood out during the final week of drills, as he produced an interception and a pair of pass breakups. He could have a legitimate shot at a roster spot this offseason.

Stock down: Wendell Smallwood

The veteran running back entered the offseason program with the opportunity to stand out at his position. Second-round rookie Miles Sanders (hamstring), third-down back Corey Clement (knee) and last year’s leading rusher Josh Adams (shoulder) have all been sidelined with various injuries. Despite the extra reps, Smallwood was seemingly outshined by Boston Scott. Smallwood also had a pair of rough drops during the final week of OTAs. He will need to bounce back during minicamp.  [nj.com]

What we learned at OTAs

Daniel Gallen | PennLive.com

Over at PennLive, Daniel Gallen wrapped up OTAs with a list of things we learned so far this offseason. And while we didn't get much clarity on the situation at OTAs, the cornerback battle at training camp, in light of everything that happened last season with the starters getting hurt and their replacements stepping up and playing extremely well, is certainly going to be interesting.

3. The cornerback battle will be fun to watch.

The Eagles top three cornerbacks during organized team activities were Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox. There is a possibility that three different cornerbacks top the depth chart when the season starts in September. The Eagles are rich at the position, with six players with starting experience from last season on the roster.

Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills were lost to injuries last season. Darby, who tore his ACL, was working out on a side field Wednesday and told reporters he’s “aiming” to play Week 1 after participating in training camp. Mills suffered a foot injury last season, and he has been out to watch practice at times. He told reporters he’s “on a good timetable.”

So that leaves some opportunities for Jones, Douglas and Maddox, plus Cre’Von LeBlanc, who was the top nickel down the stretch last season, to get valuable reps. And with Darby and Mills potentially returning to the mix things could get even more interesting.  [pennlive.com]

The Eagles signed a safety

Chris McPherson | PhiladelphiaEagles.com

You might not remember the name Trae Elston, but he played in one of the most thrilling games of the 2017 season for the Eagles.

Claimed off waivers from the Buffalo Bills, Elston joined the Eagles before their Week 3 matchup against the New York Giants. It was the home opener that concluded in historic fashion as Jake Elliott was carried off the field after his walk-off 61-yard game-winning field goal, the longest in franchise history, to give the Eagles a 27-24 win that sparked a nine-game win streak...

The 25-year-old Elston is back in Philadelphia after signing with the Eagles on Wednesday. To make room on the 90-player roster, linebacker B.J. Bello was waived. The 6-0, 203-pound Elston was in Training Camp with the Miami Dolphins last season but wasn't on a team during the season. With Elston in tow, the Eagles have eight safeties on the roster. He is the fourth to join this offseason alone, along with Blake Countess, Godwin Igwebuike, and Andrew Sendejo.  [philadelphiaeagles.com]

Honestly, I didn't remember Trae Elston was ever on the Eagles before, but that game was also the same week as my wedding and honeymoon, so I'm giving myself a pass on that one.


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