Former Philadelphia Eagles WR Jason Avant is set to rejoin the team as a WR coaching staff member, he could help a guy like JJAW develop in 2020.
Selected in the second round of the 2019 NFL draft, former Stanford wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside already has “bust potential” written all over him. After recording just ten catches for the Philadelphia Eagles last year, it’s perfectly reasonable for fans to have turned sour on the 6-2 wideout.
Drafted to be an Alshon Jeffery-type player in the Eagles offense, “JJAW” was supposed to embody that traditional “X” role in Doug Pederson‘s system. A big bodied, physical receiver who poses as a serious red zone threat. Considering his large stature and his absurd production in college, it seemed like a match made in heaven.
Arecega-Whiteside even flashed in preseason with a handful of nice routes and receptions.
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However, just a few weeks into the 2019 season and it was clear JJAW was not what the Eagles had hoped for. The team had essentially decided to “redshirt” him his rookie year, in hopes that he would learn and grow under Jeffery’s wing. Once both Jeffery and DeSean Jackson went down due to injury early on though, JJAW was thrusted into action, and he looked completely overmatched.
Despite the team’s crippling injuries they experienced to their WR room, Arcega-Whiteside really struggled to see the field for the majority of the year. He didn’t see a single target from weeks four through nine, and played under 30% of the team’s offensive snaps in weeks 10 and 17. Carson Wentz appeared far more comfortable throwing to the likes of Greg Ward Jr and Deontay Burnett as opposed to the team’s second round pick.
Fans were obviously quite disappointed and frustrated with the lack of ability they saw in JJAW during his rookie season. He looked slow and lethargic when running, and he routinely got bullied off of routes by much smaller cornerbacks. Not things you want to see from a guy you had hoped would be your number one red zone target moving forward.
However, there is reason for slight optimism going forward.
The Eagles announced on Wednesday that they had hired former player Jason Avant as a wide receiver coach through the NFL’s “Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Fellowship“, a program designed to connect prospective coaches with teams during training camp.
Avant played with the Eagles for eight seasons, a span which saw him record 297 receptions and 3,646 total receiving yards. He was widely known around the league for his far above average hands, as he routinely made impossible catches look easy. He finished the 2009 season with a catch rate of 70.7%, a number that would have ranked second amongst all NFL WRs in 2019.
Avant was also a fantastic route runner in his prime, and his knowledge in that regard could seriously help someone like JJAW grow and develop. Despite having some drop concerns last year, one of Arcega-Whiteside’s best traits coming out of college were his good hands, so him and Avant already have that in common. Where he really struggled in his rookie year was with creating separation, something Avant could show him a thing or two about.
Avant was never the strongest or fastest player on the field, and JJAW won’t ever be either. Avant excelled via the technicalities, utilizing crisp route running and having some of the best hands in the business. If he can work on some of these traits and skills with Arcega-Whiteside, his sophomore season could look entirely different.