The top three receivers have remained unchanged after three days of training camp for the Philadelphia Eagles. A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins are starting to look and feel like a pretty dangerous trio in a city starved for playmakers at the position.
Head coach Nick Sirianni stormed into town with a reputation as a bit of a wideout whisperer, so no real surprise there. He’s finally got the talent to work with. Brown showed off his physicality on Saturday with a myriad of tough catches, highlighted by a catch and stiff arm on Darius Slay.
Watkins was equally impressive, relying more on speed than strength, although he did drop an easy one that drew the ire of Sirianni. Smith remains the best route runner of the bunch and a reliable safety blanket for Jalen Hurts. This group is gelling quick. And challenging the secondary.
“I would say DeVonta Smith, he’s a great route runner,” cornerback James Bradberry said. “Of course A.J. Brown, he’s definitely a physical player, so trying to guard him and his strength. He’s got strong hands, too, at the point of attack — that’s definitely hard to cover. And we also have a lot of speed on the team, that’s throughout the receiver corps, so that’s definitely tough to cover as well.”
Brown – the one-time Pro Bowler making $100 million — is the first Eagle to look the part of a true No. 1 receiver since Terrell Owens. Sirianni has big plans for Brown. He’s just not ready to reveal them.
“Obviously, that’s our secret. I’m not going to say what types of plays because that’s our advantage,” Sirianni told reporters. “No one has seen how the Philadelphia Eagles use A.J. Brown, so Detroit would have to be the first one that will see that. We most definitely are planning plays for A.J., because he’s a heck of a playmaker.”
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Sirianni Delivers Update on Jalen Reagor
Third-year man Jalen Reagor has been running exclusively with the second unit so far at camp. Again, no surprise. Sirianni bumped Watkins up to first team at the end of the 2021 campaign. However, Reagor remains on the roster despite a slew of trade rumors and continues to battle.
Could he do enough to move back up the depth chart? Forget that. Reagor is fighting for a roster spot, according to Sirianni.
“He’s battling. He’s battling for a spot, and he is working with the twos right now,” Sirianni said. “He’s gotten a lot of balls over the last two days out here, so he’s done a nice job and he is battling for a spot, he’s battling for his return spot.”
Reagor made 33 receptions for 299 yards and two touchdowns last season, numbers far too low for a former first-round pick. But it was his crucial drops late in games, coupled with costly fumbles on kick returns, that soured the fan base. He has a lot to prove in Year 3.
“He’s worked hard in the offseason to come back in great shape,” Sirianni said. “That’s something that we all noticed in the conditioning test, how good of shape Jalen [Reagor] was in. Yeah, he’s just battling for a spot.”
Zach Pascal Remains Missing in Action
Veteran slot receiver Zach Pascal remains out with a non-COVID illness. He got food poisoning right before camp opened and hasn’t yet taken the field. He should have a big role, especially considering his long-standing relationship with Sirianni.
Assuming Pascal is locked into a spot on the 53-man (and that’s a safe assumption), then that leaves eight players fighting for the final spots at receiver. Those guys include Reagor, Lance Lenoir, Keric Wheatfall, Devon Allen, Britain Covey, John Hightower, Greg Ward, Deon Cain. Wheatfall hasn’t participated in 11-on-11 drills since he’s in the dreaded “COVID progression.”