Catching Up: Young Birds WRs Rounding Into Form
Working within the confines of the end zone, Jalen Reagor demonstrated innate body control Tuesday, acrobatically reeling in a Jalen Hurts pass by adjusting in mid-air to gain position on Patriots defensive back Michael Jackson Sr.
Jackson Sr. never had a chance.
Reagor, the second-year Eagles receiver, had accented the play with a spectacular, one-handed snag.
But Tuesday’s joint practice was merely a byproduct of what had been brewing from Monday’s joint practice session with the Patriots.
And really, for the better part of the summer. After a rough start to camp, Reagor, last year’s first-round pick, has rounded into form.
“I really like the development that’s happened,” head coach Nick Sirianni said. “The thing with Jalen yesterday, what I was real impressed with, was particularly his 1-on-1s.
“I thought he had a good day all together. But his 1-on-1s now were special, and he was starting to use some techniques that we want him to see because we all know that he has phenomenal athleticism, right? And so it was like … Can you put that football ability and your athleticism and can you combine fundamentals and technique with it – and that’s when you reach your ceiling.”
Reagor entered training camp with much to prove following a rookie season marred by confidence woes, detail lapses, and incredulously stagnant play-calling.
If the Eagles’ aerial attack is to shake off last year’s disappointment, however, Reagor represents the key to unlocking its potential.
While Reagor must continue to hone in on the finer nuances of the position and stack positive practices, the 22-year-old pass-catcher is playing decidedly faster and with infinitely more confidence than at this time last year.
The former TCU star appears dialed in on the task, and early returns indicate that has responded well to the hands-on approach of a new-look coaching staff in Year 2.
Another example of progression is fellow second-year wide receiver, Quez Watkins.
The enticing, albeit raw, Southern Mississippi speedster fell to the Eagles in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft and then spent the first four weeks of the season on injured reserve, failing to yield any meaningful snaps until the final four weeks of the season.
The 6-foot, 193-pounder played 99 offensive snaps over that span, accumulating seven receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown.
Fast forward to this year’s training camp, where Watkins has consistently impressed onlookers at the NovaCare Complex with his downfield separation and big-play potential.
But perhaps the most encouraging aspect of Watkins’ development is the remarkable strides made as a route-runner. The second-year receiver explodes off the ball and gets in and out of breaks cleanly and with little wasted movement.
With first-round pick DeVonta Smith sidelined, Watkins was the beneficiary of increased reps and approached his newfound opportunity with a purpose.
Sure, the wide receiver-centric coaching staff – including Sirianni, pass game coordinator Kevin Patullo, and wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead – has adopted a pragmatic approach with the young crop of pass-catchers, drilling them on the fundamentals and minute details of the position.
The added emphasis on player development is evident, as Reagor and Watkins are early signs of young players who have seemingly turned the corner thanks to a fresh approach.
Former NFL receiver Eddie Royal has also been added to the coaching mix as an intern, essentially providing an inexperienced receiver room with a veteran mentor who played in the league.
The Virginia Tech alum played for three teams over his nine-year playing career, amassing 408 receptions for 4,357 yards and 28 touchdowns.
“Eddie is doing an internship with us,” Sirianni explained. “He was a great football player for our Charger teams, and you know, had a lot of success, and I always thought he was really savvy as a football player and I know he’s able to add his knowledge there as well.”
As impressive as Reagor and Watkins have been, training camp phenoms often serve as cautionary tales during the regular season.
Whether Reagor and Watkins’ summer success translates to regular-season game situations remains to be seen, but their upward trajectory warrants optimism.
In fact, when the Eagles aren’t in 12 personnel, Watkins may have already shown enough to put his stamp on the No. 3 role behind Smith and Reagor and ahead of the team’s lone big-bodied perimeter option, Travis Fulgham.
However the depth chart shakes out, the Eagles should be encouraged about the future of their receiving corps.
Once considered a primary area of concern, the projected top-three options each offer distinctive skill sets.
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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