Eagles Offense & Wide Receivers Can Be Historically Good

Alshon Jeffery

Getty Alshon Jeffery and the Eagles might have a historically good offense.

The Eagles keep garnering accolades on the offensive side of the ball. Head coach Doug Pederson’s squad has been picked and groomed to be among the NFL’s elite due to an embarrassment of riches at the skill positions.

Quarterback Carson Wentz must have rubbed Aladdin’s lamp — wait, was that Howie Roseman or Will Smith playing the part of genie? — because the Eagles appear ready to embark on a magic carpet ride through one of the easiest schedules in the league (or the seventh-easiest, according to CBS Sports, based on their opponents’ win-loss record). With that in mind, let’s break down the roster ahead of the September 8 opener against the Washington Redskins.

The Eagles are loaded with incredible talent all over the field, but no one position seems more electrifying (dare we say arousing?) than wide receiver. The team already had a solid core around Wentz and then they traded for DeSean Jackson and drafted J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Simply put, Philadelphia’s offense has a chance to be prolific — scratch that, historically good.

DeSean Jackson

Does anyone like the Showtime Rotisserie nickname this writer slapped on Jackson? It probably needs some work, or maybe we should just defer to his preferred “Jaccpot” because this casino is going to be open all fall and winter. Jackson has been so gifted at tracking down the deep ball, an innate ability he’s been praised for possessing by former coaches and experts. “There is nobody in the NFL that has better skills or ball judgment of deep balls than DeSean Jackson,” noted Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, via Eagle Eye. Let that simmer.

DeSean Jackson

Stats/Pro Football Focus

Jackson has the stats to back it up. According to Pro Football Focus, the fleet-footed receiver has seen 44.3% of his yardage come on deep targets (a deep target is defined as a ball traveling 20 or more yards). Jackson has racked up 4,657 yards from deep passes since 2008. Sounds impressive, right? Now consider he is 1,259 yards ahead of the next guy. Jackson has never played with a quarterback as good as Wentz in his career (yes, that includes Donovan McNabb). Don’t let that simmer, put it on the burner.

Nelson Agholor

First, let’s throw out all those trade rumors and cryptic tweets. Agholor is likely here for the year at a price of $9.4 million. Guess what? That’s a really good thing for the Eagles as the new Sultan of the Slot (sorry, Freddie Mitchell, it was fun while it lasted) has been a force in the middle. The 26-year-old had 64 catches for 736 yards in 2018, down from 768 yards in 2017. Let’s put that in perspective.

Agholor was used primarily in the slot during the Eagles’ Super Bowl run, with 86.5 percent of his snaps coming in the slot. Last year, his role in the offense changed dramatically once Golden Tate was acquired from the Lions. Remember, Agholor lined up more on the outside last season and his red zone targets dipped from 18 to 11. That shouldn’t be the case this year, not with Jackson keeping defensive backs honest with his speed on the outside. Look for Agholor to thrive once again and put up Wes Welker kind of numbers in the slot.

Alshon Jeffery

Jeffery was the No. 1 option for Wentz for much of last season, on and off the field. The two were spotted enjoying a Sixers game and hanging out with Allen Iverson. The bond there is extremely tight. In 23 games together in Philadelphia, Jeffery has hauled in 100 receptions for 1,265 yards and 13 touchdowns. Yes, there was that huge drop in the playoff loss to the Saints. However, Nick Foles was the one pulling the trigger on that pass.

Jeffery has been outspoken about his desire to play with Wentz. He signed a four-year, $52 million contract extension in 2017 to keep him in Philadelphia through 2021. “The sky’s the limit for Carson. The sky’s the limit for this team,” Jeffery said, via NBC Sports. The 29-year-old was known as a possession receiver (see: Keyshawn Johnson) during his time in Chicago and the label hasn’t changed too much, save for the price tag. But 6-foot-3 possession receivers with excellent hands are a nice luxury to have in the red zone. He’ll be a touchdown-scoring machine for the Eagles in 2019.

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

The rookie looks like the complete package, on every single level. He is very much an Alshon Jeffery clone. The second-round “steal pick” has the size, strength, speed, hands and intelligence to excel in the NFL. Arcega-Whiteside hauled in 63 balls for 1,059 yards in his final season at Stanford and his 16.8 yards per catch was ninth-best in the 2019 draft class. Back to his size for a minute, the 22-year-old receiver stands 6-foot-3 with 33 1/4-inch arms.

What about the red zone? As if the Eagles need another option down there. Arcega-Whiteside is the son of two professional basketball players and consistently out-jumped defenders in college. He pulled down 60 receptions for 969 yards and 14 touchdowns in the red zone alone at Stanford. But don’t pigeon-hole him into that role, he’s a well-rounded threat. “Any route that you give me, I’m going to run, and I’m going to do my best to get open,” he told reporters, via Penn Live.

The Fifth Element

This is the spot where the Eagles have options. The favorite to win the job is third-year wideout Mack Hollins, a player who has seen the field in only 16 games while battling a mysterious groin injury, according to NJ.com. Hollins did some light work during wide receiver drills during June’s mandatory minicamp but is firmly on the bubble entering training camp. The 25-year-old showed flashes in his rookie season and now it’s time to piece it all together. It’s his job to lose.

Hollins will have at least four skilled athletes banging down his door this summer for the fifth roster spot at wide receiver. Shelton Gibson, a fifth-round pick in 2017, received reps with the first-team offense in June. Speed is the one thing NFL teams can never have too much of and Gibson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds at the combine. He has three catches for 59 yards in parts of two seasons.

It was another speedster, Marken Michel — the brother of Patriots running back Sonny Michel — who stole the spotlight at minicamp. He burned guys like Avonte Maddox in 7-on-7 drills while earning Carson Wentz’s trust as a reliable slot receiver. He also adds value as a punt returner with good burst. If the Eagles like Michel enough, they could increase his snaps in the preseason and start grooming him as Nelson Agholor’s replacement.

The Eagles have two other names that could thwart that plan in Greg Ward Jr. and Charles Johnson. Both are more polished and experienced than Michel, a player who left a productive career in the Canadian Football League to pursue his NFL dreams. Needless to say, the Eagles are in a good position to be picky at wideout.

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