Dede would look good in Philadelphia Eagles midnight green.
The Philadelphia Eagles are a team without an offensive identity.
Sure, they have Miles Sanders, who logged 77 percent if the team’s offensive snaps in Week 2, but between a slew of injuries changing who’s up on the fly and (alleged) friction between Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson over which plays to run before any given snap, it’s hard to really comprehend what the Birds are trying to do offensively.
*sigh* but it didn’t have to be this way.
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No, when Howie Roseman was re-composing the Eagles for their 2020 run, he actually had a pretty solid idea to supercharge his increasingly average offense: Speed.
That’s right, between Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, Quez Watkins, and Marquise Goodwin, the Eagles added four receivers with sub-4.5 speed and varying degrees of position flexibility. Factor in a healthy DeSean Jackson, and Pederson would be calling empty backfield, five-wide looks with increasing regularity; allowing accuracy specialist Carson Wentz to pick apparent opposing defenses with ease.
Except it didn’t happen. Between Watkins suffering an upper-body injury and Goodwin opting out of the season altogether, the Eagles entered Week 1 with five healthy wide receivers and could see that number drop to four in Week 3 if Alshon Jeffery isn’t ready to go (more on that here).
Despite effectively using four draft picks on wide receivers – probably not the most ever, but certainly close – the Eagles may be on the market for external upgrades in the not too distant future.
If that’s the case, I know the perfect man for the job: Dede Westbrook.
The 110th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Westbrook’s 2020 hasn’t been ideal. Limited for much of camp due to a shoulder injury, Westbrook made many a ‘surprise cuts‘ list due to the potent combination of three largely underwhelming seasons in and out of the starting lineup and a duo of promising young additions via the 2020 NFL Draft.
Through the first three games of the season, I imagine Westbrook in a small way wishes he would have been waived, as he’s been all but eliminated from the Jacksonville Jaguars’ game plan.
A scratch for the first two games of the season due to his shoulder, Westbrook’s offensive contributions in the Jags’ 31-13 loss to the Miami Dolphins could best be described as ‘blink and you miss it’ in that I quite literally blinked and missed it (seriously).
Finishing out the game with a single catch on a single target for four yards, Westbrook is clearly out with new Jaguars’ offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. While losing his spot to Laviska Shenault isn’t all that inditing, as that dude can flat out ball, it’s pretty telling that in a game without incumbent starter DJ Chark, it was Chris Conley, not Westbrook, who earned the unusual start and the plurality of the targets.
But hey, that’s just Jacksonville, man. As fans in Philly will all too eagerly attest, it’s not like the younger Gruden is all that creative a play-caller; often reverting to a slew of passes to receiving backs over establishing the deep ball game with a certified speedster like Westbrook.
To put it simply, Dede Westbrook could use a change of scenery about as much as the Philadelphia Eagles could use a wide receiver with NFL experience and inside-out versatility.
Now sure, before you protest in the comments section below, yes, I know the Eagles already have a slot wide receiver in Greg Ward. Like you (probably), I like Ward a lot and want nothing more than for him to succeed, but based on his decreasing offensive role with each passing, it would appear the Eagles aren’t too sold on running out the 5-foot-10 former college quarterback as a sizeable part of their offense.
Westbrook, by contrast, is a legit home run hitter with great burst, solid hands, and better than average deep ball tracking ability. While he may not be the sort of possession receiver who body checks a ‘backer for three yards in double coverage, at Oklahoma, Westbrook played a large part in convincing talent evaluators that Baker Mayfield was a legit franchise quarterback. Based on his struggles in Cleveland as of late, that’s a pretty impressive ask.
Whether deployed on the outside in the ‘DeSean Jackson’-role, or kicked inside a la the good version of Nelson Agholor, Westbrook could easily help the Eagles weather Reagor’s absence and do so with (presumably) a relatively small barrier for entry – something like a conditional Day 3 draft pick.
If short-term relief is all Westbrook brings to the table than heck yeah, why not pull off a deal swapping a sixth for a seventh Duke Riley-style (more on that here) but in this writer’s humble opinion, the 6-foot, 178-pound receiver can be oh so much more with a bit of creativity.
That’s right, I’m talking jet-sweeps, I’m talking ball screens, heck, I’m even talking deep post routes to the house a la Reagor’s Week 1 55 yard bomb against Washington. Not only that, but in Westbrook, the Eagles would have yet another receiver with slot experience who can allow for more four and even five receiver looks to stretch the field and stress opposing defensive backfields.
Though Jacksonville typically utilized Westbrook on the outside due to the emergence of Keelan Cole as a legit top-10 interior option, the slight receiver is arguably best suited to play in the slot, and could surely provide some exciting, highlight-reel catches when facing off against less athletically gifted second or even third-string cornerbacks.
Imagine, if you will, Jeffery wide left, Jackson wide right, Ward slotted on the left, Westbrook slotted on the right, and Zach Ertz filling out the lineup. How do you stop that look? Alternatively, what if you swap out Ward for Sanders, and use him as a moveable piece between the slot and the backfield depending on the look? See what I mean? The possibilities are endless.
Will the Philadelphia Eagles trade for Dede Westbrook? Honestly, probably not. These sorts of fantasy booking, ‘all he needs is a change of scenery’-type deals work way better on paper than in practice. That being said, Doug Pederson’s offense is in dire need of something, anything to get things back on track, and incorporating more inside looks to a Dede Westbrook-type receiver could go a long way in adding some excitement to one of the league’s most underwhelming units. Do you know who would really excel in such a role? Dede Westbrook and honestly, I think he could really use a change of scenery and a chance to excel in the slot; sorry, had to do it.