After getting drafted in the second round out of Stanford in 2019, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside had a miserable rookie season. In total, J.J. caught just ten passes for 169 yards and one touchdown. After the Eagles drafted three receivers during the draft and traded for Marquise Goodwin, is it possible J.J. Arcega-Whiteside could get cut after only one season?
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside could not possibly have had a worse rookie campaign. Despite the Eagles having numerous injuries at the receiver position, Arcega-Whiteside had trouble getting on the field in 2019. Three receivers, Greg Ward Jr., Robert Davis, and Deontay Burnett, who all began the year on various practice squads, out-played Arcega-Whiteside. Not to mention, the Eagles passed up on better receivers, most notably Terry McLaurin, D.K. Metcalf, and Darius Slayton, to draft Arcega-Whiteside.
The most notable moment of Arcega-Whiteside’s rookie season was him having his mother hold an umbrella over his head during a hot training camp. Really? Toughen up a bit rookie. General manager Howie Roseman should have cut him right there.
While his speed is lacking (we’ll get to that later), and his hands aren’t great, Arcega-Whiteside’s biggest flaw is his route running. Having watched game film leads me to believe JJAW didn’t bother to make much of an effort to learn the playbook. On numerous occasions last season, Arcega-Whiteside looked lost out there and ran into other Eagles receivers. That kind of play makes it more difficult for Carson Wentz to find open guys.
The Eagles also were hoping that JJAW would be an Alshon Jeffery type of receiver who could go up and make difficult catches in traffic. That did not happen. Also, Arcega-Whiteside’s inability to create any space makes it that much tougher for Wentz. While it was only his rookie season, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside will need to put a lot of work not to be a flat out bust.
The Eagles Want Speed
During the NFL Draft, Howie Roseman and the Eagles made one thing clear. They want speed. Philadelphia selected Jalen Reagor out of TCU in the first round, ideally to be a vertical threat and slot receiver replacing Nelson Agholor. Philly later selected John Hightower in the fifth round, and Quez Watkins in the sixth, each of whom ran sub 4.43 times at the NFL Combine. Additionally, Philly traded for Marqise Goodwin of the 49ers, to help provide another vertical threat.
The Eagles are looking for fast receivers after they were one of the slowest teams in the NFL last season. Roseman made that clear with his picks. Is that something that J.J. Arcega-Whiteside can provide? Well, it’s certainly not his strength. After not running at the Combine, Arcega-Whiteside ran a 4.50 time at his Stanford Pro Day. While that’s far from a terrible number, he’s much slower than all of the Eagles’ new weapons. The Eagles’ desire for speed adds intrigue to Arcega-Whiteside’s unclear future with the team.
So, will J.J. Arcega-Whiteside make the Eagles roster for 2020? It’s far from a guarantee. If he doesn’t show any signs of improvement during pre-season (if there is a pre-season), the Eagles may decide to move on from him.
As it stands, the Eagles are currently carrying a whopping 16 wide receivers on their roster. If he doesn’t get traded before the start of next season, Alshon Jeffery may begin the season on IR due to a Lisfranc injury. Desean Jackson, Jalen Reagor, and Marquise Goodwin are all locks to make the team. With so many receivers in place, it is likely Philly carries six receivers next season.
As late-round picks, neither Hightower nor Watkins are locks to make the team. However, let’s say that both of them do make the team. That would likely leave one final spot open for a receiver. Based on what fans saw last season, it’s tough to see a scenario where the Eagles cut Greg Ward Jr. Boom, there are six receivers better than JJAW right there.
There are scenarios, though, where Arcega-Whiteside makes the roster. One would be that Howie Roseman decides to cut one of his rookies, and ideally move them to the practice squad. The other would be that Philly rosters seven receivers for next season, which seems unlikely. Not to mention both of these possibilities are contingent on Alshon Jeffery beginning on injured reserve.
If I had to make a final decision, I would say that J.J. Arcega-Whiteside WILL be on the Eagles’ week one roster in 2020, even though he’s shown nothing in his NFL career so far. Howie Roseman has been trying to kill the narrative that he can’t draft, and cutting a guy he selected in the second round last year wouldn’t do him any favors. At this point, it’s tough to believe any team would want to trade for him as well. I guess there isn’t much else to do except hope JJAW can turn it around in year two.
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