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  • Brian Baldinger

EAGLES INVESTED PLENTY IN THE WIDE RECEIVER POSITION - IT NEEDS TO START PAYING DIVIDENDS


Brian Baldinger on the Eagles

The Eagles finished the 2019 season with a four- game win streak to get to 9-7 and win the NFC EAST. They would lose badly at home in a playoff game to the Seattle Seahawks.


Whatever thoughts they had about tinkering with the roster to get back to the Super Bowl were squashed in the disappointing home playoff loss. Carson Wentz was injured on the game's ninth play, never to return that day.

In talking to some Eagle personnel people after the season they set out to get younger and faster everywhere they could throughout the roster. They weren’t joking

In free agency that spring they added Darius Slay Jr. and Javon Hargrave on defense. In the draft they added three receivers, two of which are still with the team, Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins.

With the 53rd pick they drafted QB, Jalen Hurts,

After a miserable 4-11-1 quarantined season in 2020, the Birds cleaned house throughout the organization. But the commitment to youth and speed hasn’t changed, especially at the receiver position.

With their first round pick the Eagles jumped up in front of the division rival Giants to select DeVonta Smith from Alabama. His resume included a Heisman Trophy and many other awards.

After three games in September let’s look at the 3 receivers and how they are doing: Smitty, Reags and Quez as they are sometimes referred to.


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Rookie DeVonta Smith had a great first game against Atlanta, but not much since. Photo by Andy Lewis

don't think they are putting fear into anyone as they are 1-2 after three games with two TD's between the three of them.

All are on the thin and small size compared to other trios around the league like Bengals’ Boyd Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase. But the Birds receivers do have speed.

We just haven’t seen shiny examples thus far as Jalen Hurts has started only seven games and is still learning a new playbook and learning NFL defenses.

From what I have seen thus far Quez has been their best player at that position.

He has only been targeted seven times but has caught all seven passes for 186 yards. He is more than straight line speed. He ran a filthy out cut vs. the 49ers for a big chunk play.

He ran right by the Niners for a 91 yard bomb that showed his speed and his ability to track a deep ball. He caught a "7" cut against the Cowboys on Monday Night and leaped over the defender for a big grab. I think the Eagles have to begin calling plays for No.16 because he has earned the right and he looks like he can deliver.

With everything said about Quez being positive I am not down on DeVonta at all. I know he is a worker and has the right approach to the game. He carries himself like a true professional and takes his craft very seriously and it shows.

They called his number against the Falcons in week 1 and he delivered on a "rub route" with Zach Ertz for his first NFL catch and first TD catch. It was a well-designed play to begin the rout to their first victory.

They need to call more plays like this to create shot plays and make life easier for their QB as he tries to become a top flight player at that position.

But when he slipped on an out cut on Monday Night against the Cowboys it was a costly mistake as Trevon Diggs took the interception back for a crushing TD. He should learn from this and I doubt he will slip any more this season on such a crucial play.

All this leads to Reagor. He leads the Eagles with 13 receptions. Most have been hitch screens to the outside. That's what he scored on week one against the Falcons.

He isn’t big and doesn’t have much presence about him so he has to really work to separate and get open so the QB can see him. two plays stand out about his size.

He scored on a go route against the 49ers because he stepped out of bounds. On the play he could not hold the line to stay in bounds. That’s where size and strength matter for a wide out. He was forced to the sideline by a rookie cornerback. He has to be stronger in his stem.

On a go route against the Cowboys Hurts threw a deep ball to Reagor against Anthony Brown.

The ball was thrown too far to the inside and was intercepted. That’s where Reagor has to make sure the defender doesn’t catch it. It’s imperative that he become the defender on the play and he failed to do so.

This is a tough group to really evaluate so far just because the passing game is fairly limited. However, to be a quality receiver in this league you have to beat man coverage consistently.

These qualities allow you to do this so that your QB has room to make throws to you. Route running and releases can overcome any deficiencies. DaVonta Adams comes to mind. He doesn’t have near the speed of the Eagles trio but he knows how to separate from the league's best to become the best.

Size matters. From Mike Evans to Tee Higgins to Michael Williams and many others use their size to reach balls others can’t, and use big bodies to shield defensive backs. And speed. Speed with route running creativity can be lethal in the passing game.

DeVonta has shown flashes of this ability to do this. Quez in limited catches has shown flashes. I need to see more of everything from Reagor. The game plan week one against the Falcons got everyone involved and the QB excelled at it.

They have gotten away from it the past two weeks. Get these receivers involved early and let them catch and run. The more they do it, even if its bubble screens, the more confidence they will get.

It's a long season but I am encouraged by what they have been able to do. They have invested heavily at this position, so like any investment I want to see it pay off. *

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