Philadelphia Eagles: Nick Sirianni’s WR scheme is a defensive ‘nightmare’

Philadelphia Eagles. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Philadelphia Eagles. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

First-year head coach Nick Sirianni has been cooking up some dynamic offensive plays for the Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver unit this preseason. In Wednesday’s press conference, he spoke to the media about the state of his team’s roster, the mentality of the team going into its second and final joint practice with the Jets, and other topics before diving into the wide receiver situation.

Philadelphia invested in pass-catching options over the course of the past two offseasons after ranking 26th in the league in receiving yards per game in 2020 (233). They even finished behind the Cincinnati Bengals who lost Joe Burrow for much of the campaign.

In the 2020 NFL Draft, the Eagles used their first-round pick again on Jalen Reagor, and in the 2021 Draft used their first-round pick again on DeVonta Smith. Over the course of the last three years, they’ve drafted five receivers, which just goes to show their commitment to having quality passing targets.

Currently, Smith, Reagor, and breakout star Quez Watkins are the favorites to win the starting receiving positions, but in regards as to who would play in the slot or on the outside, Sirianni used one word to describe their roles: versatile.

"I never really liked to look at it like this guy plays X, this guy plays Z, this guy plays slot. They’re very interchangeable to me, and they’ve always been in my career."

Sirianni talked at length about not defining his wide receivers by one category, whether it’s speed or shiftiness or YAC numbers.

"There’s all these questions you have of ‘Who does what best?’…In the slot, who has the best yards after catch? Who is the fastest guy that we want to run? Who is the most creative guy on a crossing route? Who’s the guy with the best feel that we want to run an option route to?"

Philadelphia Eagles: Sirianni wants his WRs to play versatile roles in the offense.

Of course, Sirianni already knows the strength of his players (as he should). He’s compared Smith to Keenan Allen. He’s seen Reagor’s viral contested catches. He’s noticed Watkins’ speed when he beat a Patriot corner for a touchdown in a joint practice.

Though Sirianni will, no doubt, try to amplify each wideout’s strengths, he also hopes to add a dimension of unpredictability to Philadelphia’s passing game by “mixing guys around.”

“When you’re willing to switch guys around, it makes it very difficult for the defense to see what you’re doing. Every defensive coordinator I’ve talked to, that’s what they always say: ‘It’s a nightmare preparing for you guys because you’re constantly mixing guys around.’”

The young and unproven Eagles team has shown glimpses of promise during the preseason, but they could still do with a veteran presence at wide receiver. Of those expected to make the roster, the most seasoned is Greg Ward. But he’s only played 23 games in two years at Philadelphia.

Travis Fulgham’s name could also be thrown in there (if you count a handful of good games during one season as experience), and he’s served as the ‘true’ slot receiver on the team. He has 16 games of experience under his belt and will look to continue his efficient production from a 2020 standout season.

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No one’s calling this Philadelphia Eagles team short-handed in terms of its wide receivers, as they have shining prospects who could blossom with the right coaching and within the right offensive scheme. No one would particularly be against the Eagles searching for a proven veteran wideout target either. For now, Sirianni seems pleased with his pass-catching options and can hopefully chisel Philadelphia’s unrefined wide receiver unit into touchdown-scoring gems this season.