By Connor Thomas
Today is the first practice of 2021 Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp. There are new faces, old faces, plenty of questions, and even some optimism from media and parts of the fan base. There are going to be a bunch of things to keep an eye on as camp progresses at the NovaCare Complex, but one unit stands out in particular as a group that has a lot to prove. It’s not the secondary, with their lack of depth. It’s not the QB room, with a 2nd year player taking the reins. It’s not the linebackers, who are still one of the lowest paid units in the NFL. There seems to be a lot of hope in the wide receiver group this year, but even collectively, they haven’t really accomplished anything at this level… yet.
Take a look at the players currently filling out the WR position on the Eagles depth chart:
Sure, you can argue that there is some talent among those 9 players. What there for sure isn’t, though, is a bevy of experience at the NFL level. Believe it or not, the player with the most NFL experience in the Eagles WR room is J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who could very well be a camp casualty. He has 1 more game played in the NFL (24) than Greg Ward, who so far has appeared in 23 games for the Eagles, and the only other WR heading into their 3rd year in the league is Travis Fulgham, who has only played 16 games. Quez Watkins, Michael Walker, John Hightower, and Jalen Reagor were all rookies last year. Jhamon Ausbon and DeVonta Smith are both making their NFL debuts (though it is a long shot that Ausbon will actually make the team). When you hand over your offense to a first year head coach and a QB entering his first season as the bona fide starter, ideally you would like a veteran WR to give some comfort to your passing offense. Unfortunately, the Eagles do not have that luxury.
On top of the inexperience of the WR room, the ones that have been around the block a time or two have been largely unproductive. Between those 8 players, they have caught a total of 14 NFL TDs and have a combined 2,150 receiving yards. If you take out Greg Ward, those numbers become 7 TDs and 1,477 yards. For comparison, last season Davante Adams led the NFL with 18 receiving TDs, 4 more than the career total of the entire Eagles’ wide receivers unit. Stefon Diggs covered 75% of the career receiving yard mark of the combined unit just in his 2020 season alone (he had 1,535 yards). When single players are having single seasons that outweigh or nearly outweigh your entire unit’s combined career numbers, that’s probably not a great sign.
Now this is no guarantee that this unit is going to be bad. They added a Heisman Trophy winner in DeVonta Smith this offseason. Jalen Reagor is still a former first round selection that could certainly have a breakout sophomore season. Greg Ward and Travis Fulgham have shown some production at points during their tenure as Eagles. But on a team chocked full of question marks, the room with the most could very well be the incredibly young WR room. If this offense, QB, coach, and team are going to be successful, these 9 players will have to prove that they can produce at the NFL level.