J.J. Arcega-Whiteside Channels Cris Carter, Amazing Catch at Eagles Practice

Giants hosted DL Daylon Mack for a vist

Getty J.J. Arcega-Whiteside #19 of the Philadelphia Eagles is tackled by Daylon Mack #94 of the Baltimore Ravens

The Eagles were working on a scramble drill in the red zone, a play that teaches quarterbacks and receivers how to react when chaos ensues.

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside sensed Carson Wentz was in trouble and broke off his route at Wednesday’s practice, racing to the back of the end zone and catching a touchdown pass. It was an extremely acrobatic maneuver, one that saw a diving Arcega-Whiteside juggle the football before hauling it in. Oddly, Wentz’s pass was originally intended for Greg Ward Jr. but the semantics of the play didn’t matter. Six points is six points. All three players involved agreed.

“I think it was intended for Ward,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “I think what Carson was trying to do was fake out the defender and throw it behind me but he ended up faking me out and I ended up in that spot. I’ll ask him when we’re all watching it on video. At the end of the day, we got six and that’s all that matters.”

But it was what Arcega-Whiteside said prior to describing the play that had everyone in real awe. When a reporter asked the second-year receiver to take him through his thought process on the touchdown catch, he quipped: “You’re going to have to be more specific. I think I had like two or three of those today.”

The Zoom call erupted in laughter, then he broke down the play.

“Those are golden opportunities for us in the red zone,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “He threw it and I didn’t know who it was going to, but I’m not even going to leave it up to chance. I’m going to go and make the play and it landed in my hands.”

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‘It’s Always Good to Catch Touchdowns’

The toe-tapping grab was indeed his third score of the day. However, the confidence brimming from his wide-eyed, smiling face was palpable. It was reminiscent of a famous quote from former Eagles coach Buddy Ryan when he justified releasing Cris Carter by saying: “All he does is catch touchdowns.”

Right now, the lanky kid from Stanford is mostly catching touchdown passes in practice, particularly in the red zone. He talks differently and is playing differently in 2020 — and there’s a reason why.

“I just want to show the team some of the things I can do, in the red zone, on the field, 3rd down, whatever they need me to do,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “I want to show them I can do it. But, yeah, it’s always good to catch touchdowns.”

Arcega-Whiteside took a ton of heat from Eagles fans last year for failing to live up to the high expectations attached to a second-round selection. The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder went 57th overall in 2019, with Seahawks sensation DK Metcalf going seven picks after him. Turn the page. New year, new you.

“I don’t need to worry about what people think about me or what people say or what is being said out there,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “I’m not doing it for them. I’m doing it for my family, for me, because it’s fun, because I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. Who doesn’t love playing football? Watching football? And once I made it about that, it finally clicked.”

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Making the Transition from College to NFL

One of the biggest adjustments for Arcega-Whiteside has been getting used to not being able to bully cornerbacks with his size. The 23-year-old admitted that he could just “body people up” in college and win jump-balls. He can’t do that in the NFL, not when going up against guys the same size or bigger.

“Shoot, in college I think I had about 10 touchdowns just putting my body on people and jump-balling,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “You can still do that in the NFL but it’s not as easy. I had to learn some new tricks, new techniques, to get myself open.”

That being said, the majority of his highlight-reel plays during Eagles’ padded practices this summer have come in red-zone drills. He can still win those jump-balls whenever he wants, it’s just a matter of doing them within the team’s offensive scheme.

“I have to keep them honest so they know the jump ball isn’t coming on every play,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “Do different things and also the scheme helps, too, being able to run different routes.”

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