Eagles WR Reveals Why Rookie Year ‘Wasn’t Good Enough’

JJ Arcega Whiteside

Getty Eagles rookie WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside should see significant playing time Sunday.

JJ Arcega-Whiteside “kept it real” when evaluating his 2019 rookie campaign in the NFL. It wasn’t good enough, plain and simple.

The second-round pick (57th overall) out of Stanford was drafted to be the potential replacement for Alshon Jeffery. Physically, the two players share a similar build and their ability to win jump balls and wrangle away contested catches is uncanny.

Arcega-Whiteside is the league’s prototypical possession receiver. However, his first year was marred by injury and inconsistent play and he often found himself in the cross-hairs of fair criticism.

“It wasn’t good enough,” Arcega-Whiteside told reporters on Thursday about his rookie year. “I mean, you turn on the TV, you can see it, but 2019 is in the past. I look back at it now, and I think ‘Man, I’m a totally different player than I was then.’ I kind of laugh about it because I don’t even know who that was, and that just happens to some people.”

What did he do about it? Well, Arcegea-Whiteside forced himself to watch last year’s tape and have some uncomfortable conversations with himself. That, and the 6-foot-2, 225-pound receiver developed a daily routine of running, lifting, swimming and yoga. Seven hours every day. He dropped about eight pounds of body fat.

“Night and day different,” Arcega-Whiteside said about his mindset between this year and last year. “I don’t go into practice with a script in my hand trying to memorize the plays I have. I’m in the huddle, you call the play, I know what I’ve got to do.”

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Arcega-Whiteside Worked on Getting Faster

Looking around the receivers room has to be intimidating for someone with slow wheels. Eagles GM Howie Roseman confided that he asked the same three questions about every player the team brought in: “Can he run? Is he healthy? Does he love to play?”

Arcega-Whiteside was already on the roster but he took those words to heart. The 23-year-old isn’t the fastest guy — 4.49 40 time at his pro day — so he spent two hours every day running with his high school track coach.

“I can run. And I didn’t prove it last year,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “This year we wanted speed so I got my speed up, too, so I could show them we have a receiving corps full of fast guys. Everybody in this receiving corps can run.”

Arcega-Whiteside missed the first two days of padded practices as he was dealing with a lower-body injury. He was back out there on Thursday and lined up with the first-time offense at the X receiver spot. He caught a touchdown pass from Carson Wentz in his first day back, too. He knows he has his work cut out for him since the Eagles loaded up at receiver in the draft with the additions of Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins and John Hightower.

“Competition brings out the best in all of us,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “I love these guys, we work hard together, they’re very talented, and they bring out the best in me, as well.”

New receivers coach Aaron Moorehead has been pushing the second-year player hard in camp while giving him tips on how to tweak his game. He envisions the lanky target being a big weapon for the Eagles in the red zone.

“We had a lot of conversations this offseason through our virtual meetings and things like that of just trying to help clean up some things from a technical standpoint that I think will help him this season,” Moorehead said.

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