The Wide Receiver Factory???
It is something Eagles fans are just not used to. But the reports coming out of camp are that the wide receivers are looking really, really, good. Yes, there have not even been preseason games and yes, having great practices does not guarantee performance when the season starts but we have to embrace positive news whenever we get the chance these days.
The recent history of the Philadelphia Eagles with regards to wide receivers has been dreadful to put it mildly. Since selecting Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin in the 2008 and 2009 drafts respectively the Eagles have had a string of picks at the position that have not been good enough to be kept past their rookie contracts. The sole exception to this…Riley Cooper! Cooper, drafted in 2010, was the last wide receiver to have been extended by the team past their rookie contract.
So as the front office created a conveyor belt of players at receiver of which none were kept and the wide receiver coaching position became a revolving door, the Eagles ability to draft and develop at the position has became a joke around the NFL.
Last season out of necessity, as the injuries began to pile, the coaches had to reach deep into the practice squad to be able to field a team. Those players in turn played well beyond expectations to help Carson Wentz lead a decimated team to the playoffs. In the 2020 draft, Howie Roseman picked speedy receiver, after speedy receiver in what looked like a strategy of playing the odds that at least one would be a good pick.
In what feels to be an alternate universe, reports from training camp are giving the impression that Roseman may have struck gold multiple times and to add to surreal the vibe, some of the non-household name players that finished last year have picked up where they left off:
No intro needed. WHEN healthy, he can terrorize defences with his speed and change the course of a game in one play. According to multiple reports, his speed is still there, he looks good and his connection with Wentz is still strong.
Early feedback was promising. But as camp progressed the reports just kept coming. Reagor has clocked one good practice after another. Great hands, great speed; he appears to be everything Eagles fans have hoped for. If the plan is to get him into open space as often as possible then he is should be a really fun player to watch this year. Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that "at this point, it would be a shock if Reagor does not have a significant role in the offence" .
Yes, we have been here before. JJAW had a good camp last year and then was dreadful during the season but hopefully that can be put down to injury and his struggles with learning the playbook. He turned up this year looking leaner, having had more time to learn the offence, has reportedly been making plays and has been dominant in the end zone as evidenced by his 3 TDs monster day at practice.
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Hightower has had his ups and downs at camp as would be expected by any rookie. But he has also produced highlight after highlight and has made it very hard for the coaches to leave him off the final roster. Doug Pederson has stated that Hightower is battling Quez Watkins for a spot on the team.
The 3rd receiver selected by the Eagles in the 2020 draft is making his own strong case to make the team. His speed is undeniable. He had the benefit of working out with Wentz in Houston weeks before the beginning of training camp and as a result he is reported to have earnt the trust of the Eagles Franchise QB. Luckily, the upper body injury he has just sustained does not appear to affect his chances as he is being listed day to day.
(Photo by Chris Szagola, AP)
Burnett is only 22 years old but already has some limited NFL game experience in two seasons, having played games for both the Jets and Eagles. He has been making plays throughout camp and the drumbeat is getting louder that the coaches should find a way for him to make the 53.
(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
Greg Ward Jr.
Ward was dependable for Wentz last season when so many other receivers let down the Eagles QB. The trust built between the two appears to have continued into this year. A fan favorite to survive final cuts, he has been very active at camp including being involved on trick plays. Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia believes Ward is a lock to make the team.
There are many more wide receivers battling for a chance to make the roster in Philadelphia albeit with the slimmest of chances and Alshon Jeffery was not even mentioned above. Jeffery is currently on the PUP list and the Eagles need to activate by September 5th or else he will not be eligible to play until Week 7..
All in all, this is simultaneously a difficult yet a great situation to be in. Doug Pederson has some very hard decisions ahead regardless of whether he keeps 5 or 6 receivers. The Eagles appear to be spoilt for choice with a bounty of promise at the wide receiver position that Roseman has assembled.
The next few days are going to be fascinating.