By Kristopher Thomas
When JJ Arcega Whiteside was drafted he was taken to eventually take the place of Alshon Jeffrey. He was listed as 6-2, 225 pounds and has a 80 inch wingspan. He was heralded for his ability to make tough 50/50 catches and good instincts to track passes. When injuries raided the Eagles WR group, Arcega-Whiteside had to step into a position he wasn’t even close to being prepared for, crossed trained at multiple positions under Carson Walch and as a result the comparisons of him and DK Metcalf, Terry McLaurin and even the WRs taken beforehand over him, it’s looks bad. The 22 and now 23 year old rookie struggle to find his rhythm in the offense only finishing the season with 10 catches for 169 yards and a TD. Very disappointing indeed but let’s call off the dogs and stop calling him a bust.
Arcega-Whiteside struggled a great deal his rookie year and unlike his rookie classmates Metcalf, Brown, and McLaurin just to name off the top of my head, he didn’t have the elite speed of atheltic ability to gain him separation as well. The rookie wall hit Arcega-Whiteside harder and firmer than the other rookie WRs, however I’m confident he’ll have a bounce back season. The same struggles that Arcega-Whiteside were similar to another Eagles WR that was taken high in the draft Nelson Agholor. Although it took Agholor until year 3 to have his best season, with a new revamp offensive staff except for Pederson and Staley, it could be the answer for what Whiteside needs to be a consistent and reliable option for Carson Wentz.
After only catching 10 passes for 169 yards, there is no where to go but up. With Arcega-Whiteside being more a possession WR there are three major things he needs to improve on. First is his route running. When you run a 4.49 40 you aren’t going to beat anyone over the top unless there’s a busted coverage. When you run crisp and have good footwork on your route breaks, it makes it easier for your QB to find you and put the ball on you even if it is just a small window. Second is upper body strength. When you aren’t going to beat your match-up with speed you need to win your release at the line of scrimmage. Improving your release off the line gives you an opening for your QB to throw to you. Finally the last thing is a short memory. After the season Arcega-Whiteside had, it’s better to put this season on the back burner and get ready to improve for his sophomore campaign and he knows it.
After a huge showcase in preseason, it never truly transitioned into the regular season. Eagles fans watching nearly every other WR in last year’s draft class have success is another kick in the gut as well. However with Agholor and Jeffrey on their way out and even with the Eagles potentially bringing in new WRs in from the draft and in free agency as well, Arcega-Whiteside still has plenty of time to rewrite his story and have a impact for the Philadelphia Eagles. Once you hit rock bottom, you can’t go any lower. All you do is climb out of it. All the tools and measurements are there to make a viable redzone and jump ball receiver. The rest is up to him.
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