Offseason Review: Projecting Jalen Reagor’s Rookie Season
(Editor’s Note: This is the sixth story in an InsideTheBirds.com series recapping the 2020 Eagles offseason. The series will focus on the team’s transactions since the end of the 2019 season, including free agency, the NFL Draft and trades. In Part 6, Geoff Mosher and Andrew DiCecco give their choices for toughest loss to replace.)
What will be Jalen Reagor’s rookie season catch-yards-touchdowns total?
In many ways, Jalen Reagor reminds me of Jeremy Maclin. They’re both first-round picks, drafted in the same neighborhood — Maclin at 19th overall, Reagor at 21st. They’re about the same size — Maclin is 6 feet, 200 pounds, Reagor’s around 5-foot-11, 197.
Maclin ran a 4.45 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, and although Reagor clocked a 4.47 in Indianapolis, he’s usually timed between 4.3 to 4.4. Maclin joined the Eagles one year after the team had drafted DeSean Jackson. Reagor joins the Eagles one year after the Eagles reacquired DeSean Jackson.
Maclin as a rookie in 2009 was usually the third or fourth option on the offense in any game, behind Jackson, Brent Celek and either Brian Westbrook or rookie LeSean McCoy. Reagor is poised to be the third or fourth option, behind Zach Ertz and Jackson and somewhere amid Dallas Goedert and/or Miles Sanders.
As I reported on the latest Inside the Birds podcast, the coaches have already discussed with Reagor different ways of getting the ball into his hands to capitalizing on Reagor’s explosion. They’re having him learn routes at the “X” position along with the slot, and will look to get him involved in creative gadgets designed to get Reagor in open space.
If he can handle the workload and catch up despite the missed “grass time” from the cancellation of OTAs, Reagor could easily have a season like Maclin’s rookie year. As a rookie, Maclin caught 56 passes for 773 yards and four touchdowns.
Barring focus issues or acclimation problems like the growing pains Nelson Agholor endured in 2015, Reagor’s rookie numbers should fall somewhere around Maclin’s rookie numbers, just based on the similarities between the players and the environment at the time they were each drafted.
My prediction: 52 receptions, 810 yards, 6 touchdowns.
If recent history is any indication of what to expect from first-year Eagles’ pass catchers, it’s fair to assume that Jalen Reagor is due for a relatively tame rookie season.
Former first-round pick Freddie Mitchell caught 21 passes as a rookie in 2001, while 2003’s third-round pick Billy McMullen reeled in one reception in his first season in Midnight Green.
Later on down the timeline, there was 2014 third rounder Josh Huff (8 catches) and 2015 first-round pick Nelson Agholor (23 catches) who failed to carve out roles as first-year contributors. And, of course, the images of J.J. Arcega-Whiteside’s turbulent, 10-catch rookie campaign are still fresh in everyone’s minds.
(The Eagles are hoping Jalen Reagor fares better as a rookie than some past first-round wide receivers, such as Freddie Mitchell and Nelson Agholor.)
The franchise’s lone outlier in recent memory was DeSean Jackson, who enjoyed an immensely productive 62-catch rookie season in 2008 — averaging 57 yards per game – leading all Eagles’ pass catchers in receptions and receiving yards (912).
So, while it’s admittedly challenging to project Reagor’s statistical output without a true offseason, I believe his numbers could reflect what we saw from Jackson 12 years ago.
Like Jackson, who was thrust into the lineup as Kevin Curtis recovered from sports hernia surgery, Reagor will be called on to step in and play right away, with Alshon Jeffery expected to begin the season on the physically unable to perform list. Reagor’s speed may not be of Jackson’s unworldly caliber, but the TCU standout is considered an elite separator himself, and a more nuanced route runner than he’s given credit for. Those traits alone warrant intrigue, given the team’s lack of a consistent downfield presence over the years.
Unlike the plethora of receivers that came before him, Reagor possesses explosive traits, and offers the inside-outside versatility to move around formations. His twitchiness, short-area quickness, and burst not only makes him a vertical threat and someone who can work all three levels of the field, but also threatening on jet sweeps, screens, and in the return game – where the team also happens to have a vacancy. When you factor in the additions of senior offensive assistant Rich Scangarello, pass game analyst Andrew Breiner, and heralded wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead – it’s fair to expect progressive ideas, concepts, and tutelage in 2020.
My prediction: 55 receptions, 750 yards, 5 touchdowns.
– Geoff Mosher (@GeoffMosherNFL) is a longtime Philadelphia Eagles and NFL reporter and co-host of Inside the Birds. Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a contributor to InsideTheBirds.com. He also writes for Pro Football Network.
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