Eagles Top Draft Pick May Begin Regular Season as Backup

WR Jalen Reagor NFL Draft

Getty Wide receiver Jalen Reagor will be highly coveted in the 2020 NFL Draft.

How many snaps will Jalen Reagor see? Will the rookie play in the slot or on the outside?

Doug Pederson attempted to answer these questions and more in a 30-minute exchange with reporters on Monday. Specifically, the Eagles head coach was quizzed on whether Reagor would be taught to play one position or cross-trained in several. The latter was how the team handled last year’s second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, a move that turned in varying (disastrous?) results.

Pederson wants Reagor to focus on playing on the outside to start and mostly practice running fly routes. The burner from Texas Christian will tutor under veteran speedster DeSean Jackson. Once Reagor picks up the easier part of the playbook, the Eagles may move him around the formation.

“He’s going to come in and he’s going to learn one position and he is going to learn from DeSean Jackson, and learn everything he can,” Pederson told reporters. “Obviously the playbook is extensive and we just have to see what he’s taken from the off-season to training camp, and then once we see his potential and his growth, then we can use him in multiple spots.”

With Jackson and Alshon Jeffery (if he’s healthy) slated to be the X and Z receivers, Reagor might have an opportunity to win a starting job in the slot. Pederson said he could cross-train there later in training camp. Remember, the Eagles do have a new receivers coach.

“But one of the things that all of our receivers really have the capability of doing is moving inside, whether they are an outside guy going inside or an inside guy going outside,” Pederson said. “We’ll keep him [Reagor] at one position to start and we’ll grow from there.”

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How Fast Are Rookies Processing Information?

It’s unclear how much the lack of spring minicamps will affect the rookies. Some of the young receivers have been running routes with Carson Wentz down in Texas. Some of the veteran defenders have been working out at Fletcher Cox’s ranch. And all of them have been participating in virtual team meetings.

“It’s how fast they can process the information that we’ve been giving them this spring,” Pederson said on getting everyone up to speed. “But having a good feel for the knowledge of where they are is good, and again, like I said once we get them on the grass, we’ll know more and just how fast they can process the information from the meeting rooms on to the football field.”

Pederson believes they are all picking up the playbook and absorbing the terminology being thrown at them. He anticipates everyone will hit the ground running when they finally get “grass time” at the Eagles’ practice facility.

“You can tell by their answers, their questions, the in-depth questions that they ask in the meetings,” Pederson said of the way the rookies handled the virtual workouts. “Again, once we get them on the grass, things move a little bit faster than virtual meetings.”

Pederson May Move to Lincoln Financial Field for Camp

The uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could slow the learning process down at camp. There will be strict protocols in place to limit physical contact and help social distance. Locker stalls will be six feet apart and position groups separated even more than normal. It’s not going to be easy.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh feels it is “humanly impossible” for the NFL’s proposed rules to work. Players need to bang heads in 1-on-1 drills and slap hands after big plays. The huddle is whole other animal. Pederson stopped short of calling it impossible but acknowledged the challenge.

“Listen, we understand, I understand that this is a unique time in our society, in our country and our world. This is just what we’re faced with,” Pederson said. “It’s going to look different. It will feel different, but at the same time, we are going to embrace it and we are going to make the most of it, and our job as coaches is to prepare our football team for the regular season.”

The Eagles have one solution for the problem, too. They want to maintain normalcy and practice at the NovaCare Complex but Lincoln Financial Field has emerged as a way to better social distance. It’s a larger facility, with more nooks and crannies (read: executive suites) to split people up. The stadium is built on 15 acres.

“We’re going to make the most of it and use the resources possibly with the NovaCare facility, possibly with our stadium to take advantage of everything that we can,” Pederson said. “And the No. 1 thing here is making sure that our players and our coaches and all our staff are safe. That’s our most important aspect of everything right now.”

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