Philadelphia Eagles: Moving Jalen Reagor to the slot just makes sense

Mandatory Credit: Dan Powers-USA TODAY NETWORK
Mandatory Credit: Dan Powers-USA TODAY NETWORK /

Tyler Lockett. Cooper Kupp. Deebo Samuel.

What do these three young wide receivers have in common?

Well, other than being drafted on Day 2 of the 2015, 2017, and 2019 NFL Draft, respectively, they all just so happen to do the brunt of their receiving damage while deployed out of the slot.

I know, crazy, right? Once upon a time, the slot was relegated to a team’s third-best wide receiver, and now, in a post-spread offensive world, it’s become commonplace for teams to deploy top-tier talent on the inside to take advantage of smaller defensive backs and make plays in the open field.

Could Jalen Reagor add his name to that illustrious list of interior YAC specialists? That, according to the man himself, is what the Philadelphia Eagles are hoping for in 2021, as they’ll be largely using the former first-round pick deployed out of the slot under new head coach Nick Sirianni.

Will it work? You know what, I think it will.

Reagor has the perfect profile to excel as the Philadelphia Eagles’ slot receiver.

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Measuring in at 5-foot-11, 206 pounds, Jalen Reagor is built more like a running back than a traditional number one wide receiver.

In college, he was an absolute weapon in space, where his run after the catch abilities and seeming resistance to going down on initial contract shined through a TCU offense lacking in what one would call traditional firepower. Reagor shined for the Horned Frogs in the screen game, made plays as a deep threat on the outside, and even made waves in the punt return game, where he recorded a pair of touchdowns during his junior season.

If you wanted a speedy swiss army knife with an ability to move the sticks in a variety of different ways, Reagor was your guy at the bottom of the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, even if the way the draft went down kicked a “slot-only” LSU tiger down a bit further than many expected.

Sidebar: Yes, the irony of Reagor kicking it inside to right his career when many a talent evaluator knocked Justin Jefferson for his position inflexibility isn’t lost on me. But hey, when life gives you lemons.

Was Reagors’ rookie season perfect? No. Honestly, you’ll find a dozen critiques for every praise thrown the 22-year-old’s way, but there’s nothing anyone can do about that now; not you, me, Doug Pederson, or even Reagor. If Nick Sirianni’s main goal of the 2021 NFL season is to instill a new coaching philosophy where the team plays to its player’s strengths, the best thing he could possibly do is find a way to unlock Reagor’s playmaking abilities heading into a borderline make-or-break sophomore season.

If kicking Reagor into the slot is the best way to make that happen, so be it.

Gosh, do you remember how excited people were to watch the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season? Boy, if only we knew the disappointment lying just over the horizon.

On paper, the move makes sense. Outside of Greg Ward, the Eagles really don’t have a proven slot receiver on their roster with game-changing abilities. While one could say the same thing about outside options, as JJ Arcega-Whiteside, John Hightower, Travis Fulgham, and DeVonta Smith have a combined 17 starts to their collective names, there’s a whole lot more talent on the outside for Sirianni to scheme around, especially if Smith gets moved around the formation to feast on matchups.

For what it’s worth, Reagor could surely move around the field to depending on the matchups too, as he’ll likely serve as the Eagles’ second outside receiver when they line up in 12, or even 22 personnel, but having the former Horned Frog locked in as a playmaking slot makes a ton of sense as he attempts to learn his third new offense in as many years heading into the 2021 season.

Could we see still see Reagor and Smith on the outside with Ward or even combination WR/RB Kenneth Gainwell in the slot? Sure. What about Reagor and Hightower lined up on the outside with Smith on the inside a la Jeremy Maclin back in the day? Again, most definitely. If Sirianni wants to get away from the predictable offensive look Pederson trotted out snap after snap after snap during his admittedly successful tenure, he should prepare as many exotic looks as possible to keep opposing defenses on their toes and the offense at a competitive advantage.

Next. Can Willie Henry finally put it all together in 2021?. dark

Remember, a big reason why players like Lockett, Kupp, and Samuel fell to the second and even third round is that some scouts wondered where they would play at the NFL level. So far, that hasn’t been a problem. While Reagor isn’t guaranteed to automatically join that illustrious club just by being labeled a slot receiver versus an outside flanker, as we’ve seen plenty of players with similar athletic profiles who failed to make much of an impact – Josh Huff anyone? – attempting to shake things up to benefit the player is the sort of culture-setting move Sirianni should be making in his maiden voyage as the Eagles’ head coach.

Color me excited, Philadelphia Eagles fans.