Might the Philadelphia Eagles get a breakout season from ‘JJAW’ in 2020?
If you think about it, most Philadelphia Eagles fans and pro football pundits were saying the exact same things last year that they’re saying about second-year wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside now. Expectations are building, and hope springs eternal.
‘JJAW’ was the latter of the Philadelphia Eagles’ two second-round selections in 2019’s NFL Draft. The only difference between the man he was then and the man he’s become is we now have NFL game film on him with which to grade him, and folks, the tape wasn’t pretty.
Taken four selections after Miles Sanders was taken 53rd overall, these two prospects were supposed to be the skill players that Carson Wentz could grow old with. The running back did his part. The wideout didn’t. Once the curtain closed on the regular season, ’19’ had hauled in ten catches on 22 targets. That and his one trip to the end zone paled in comparison to what D.K. Metcalf was doing in the Pacific-Northwest with the Seattle Seahawks.
Stop comparing J.J. to D.K. if you’re a Philadelphia Eagles fan.
Throughout much of the 2019 season, many Eagles fans were dealing with a little envy. While Carson Wentz struggled, Russell Wilson was putting together an MVP-caliber season. Jadeveon Clowney, who stated during the 2019 offseason that he wanted to play for either the Eagles or ‘Hawks, wound up with Seattle and had an amazing season. Then, there was the aforementioned Metcalf.
His 58 receptions, 900 receiving yards, and seven trips to the end zone as a rookie dwarfed Arcega-Whiteside’s first season. Many ‘Birds’ fans joined the ‘we got the wrong guy’ campaign, but here’s what’s comforting if you’re a ‘Birds’ fan. ‘JJAW’ has turned it on in camp. He’s focused, more relaxed, and appears to be hell-bent on erasing last year from everyone’s memory.
With Philly’s new wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead in town, the best wide receivers coach that Philly has had during the Doug Pederson era, there’s no reason to believe he won’t excel. Come on. Carson Walch was the wide receivers coach in 2019, and he was abhorrent.
Every Eagles pass catcher, injured or healthy, looked worse under his direction. Had Metcalf been here, he would have struggled too, and perhaps ‘Birds fans would be saying that they wanted Arcega-Whiteside instead. Recently, Pro Football Focus announced their top breakout candidates for each of the 32 NFL teams, and ‘JJAW’ was given the honor for Philly. Here’s a quote:
"Arcega-Whiteside’s first season in the NFL could not have gone much worse. He battled injuries and produced a lowly 52.6 receiving grade on his 19 targets while struggling against tight coverage — an area in which he excelled at Stanford. In 2018 with the Cardinal, Arcega-Whiteside produced the third-best receiving grade in the FBS against tight coverage and tied for the most contested catches ( 22). He was as strong as one can be at the catch point in college."
"Assuming the injury played as big of a deal in his poor 2019 as it was reported to have, Arcega-Whiteside should get back to bodying defenders in contested situations in 2020."
Let’s make long stories short. No, we’ll never know whether or not Metcalf would have succeeded in Philly or if Arcega-Whiteside would have ben better playing with Wilson and the Seahawks. Here’s what we can say though. This time last year, everyone said that ‘JJAW’ could become an Alshon Jeffery clone. In 2019, we can expect to see why that was believed to be the case.