First bold statement of this young season: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside might be the best jump-ball receiver in the NFL. The chemistry he is already developing with Carson Wentz in the red zone has looked otherworldly. The 6-foot-3 wide receiver has elite hands and unbelievable body control.
It’s still unclear how many snaps Arcega-Whiteside will see as the fourth receiver in this loaded Eagles offense, but he should see a good share of red-zone targets. If not, the team is wasting his immense talent and unmatched size.
It all goes back to the Stanford product’s upbringing as both his parents, Joaquin and Valerie, were professional basketball players in Europe. Valerie set 26 school records and had her jersey number retired. Diving deeper, two of his father’s brothers played hoops for Spain’s Olympic team.
J.J. was born and raised in Spain since Joaquin and Valerie were playing in the European league. He had visited five countries by the time he was 10 months old while learning two different languages: Spanish and English. As a toddler, he attended Valerie’s games and even (sort of) helped coach the team, according to SF Gate.
When Valerie got elbowed in the paint during a game in Santerem, Portugal, he ran 20 feet onto the court to complain about the rough treatment she was getting, forcing a stoppage in play. Another time, he picked up a white board and scribbled a play for the team to run. He said, “Ball goes here, then here, then to momma.”
Arcega-Whiteside followed in his family’s famous footsteps by playing basketball at Dorman High School in South Carolina where he was a McDonald’s All-American nominee and team MVP as a senior. He was a “beast” in soccer, too, and excelled at track. But when he caught a 65-yard touchdown pass in a varsity playoff game, his affection turned to football. As a senior, he caught a school-record 108 passes for 1,824 yards and 20 touchdowns. His coach was amazed at how effortlessly he would fight through double and triple teams.
“He owns all the receiving records at the school,” Dorman head coach David Gutshall said. “If he hadn’t broken his collarbone his sophomore year, the records would be hard for anybody to match.”
He’s been highly impressive during his short time with the Eagles, mainly in OTAs and minicamp. His 30-yard touchdown catch from Wentz on a flea-flicker last week had the whole team in awe. How much of a factor can the rookie be this year? Well, Pro Football Focus sure seems to think he’ll make an immediate impact.
Arcega-Whiteside has all the natural talent in the world. Now he’s learning how to survive and thrive in an NFL locker room and doing all the little things that make a difference. For the latter, he has been picking DeSean Jackson’s veteran brain.
“I ask him stuff all the time on the field, in the classroom and he just helps,” Arcega-Whiteside told PhiladelphiaEagles.com. “He does everything he can to make sure that you understand what you’re asking for and he goes out there and makes plays like catching those posts and then it’s like what he’s saying is the truth. It’s been awesome.”