At his heart, Nick Sirianni is a wide receivers coach.
Sure, much like Andre Chacarra, Sirianni has worn a lot of hats since entering the league. He’s been an offensive quality control coach, helped with quarterbacks, and has been an offensive coordinator before landing his first-ever head coaching job, but at his heart, Sirianni is the very same guy who wore a number 25 Mount Union jersey at the turn of the century.
So naturally, if there was any head coach in the league who could right the long-term woes of the Philadelphia Eagles‘ receiving corps, it’s Sirianni, right? I mean, he’s had 1,000-yard receivers everywhere he’s coached wideouts; why would Philly be any different?
Thus far, he has multiple players who are on track.
Granted, it may be a bit easier to pass the century mark in 2021 than in seasons prior, as players have an extra regular season game to work with, but in order to finally deliver onto Philly the 1,000 yard receiver for the first time since Jeremy Maclin was in the league, a receiver needs to average roughly 58.83 yards per game to hit that total.
Thus far, the Eagles have one receiver, DeVonta Smith, who is on the positive side of the tracking line with 71 yards on six catches, with two more, Jalen Reagor and Dallas Goedert, following close behind at 49 and 42 yards respectively.
But do you know who received a special shoutout from Sirianni on the day after his first NFL win? None other than JJ Arcega-Whiteside, the team’s second-round pick from 2019 who didn’t receive a single target in his 25th NFL game with the Philadelphia Eagles.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside has found a role with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Have you ever heard of the sunk cost fallacy?
No? Well, allow The Decision Lab to break it down for ya: “The Sunk Cost Fallacy describes our tendency to follow through on an endeavor if we have already invested time, effort, or money into it, whether or not the current costs outweigh the benefits.”
In (football) layman’s terms? Teams often continue to invest time, effort, or roster sports into players who, from an objective perspective, simply aren’t that good because of where they were drafted or how the contracts they agreed to in free agency.
But the sunk cost fallacy isn’t a hard and fast rule. Sometimes the concept of sunk cost can go the other way too, namely, that after a while, it’s counterproductive to constantly compare a player’s production to their draft stock or the players selected around them and instead evaluate them through an objective lens.
That sunk cost, unfortunately, will follow JJ Arcega-Whiteside forever, as he will never live up to DK Metcalf or Terry McLaurin in terms of pure on-field production.
What JJAW can do, however, is block in space about as well as any wide receiver in the NFL, and he used that ability to not only make the team over theoretically more attractive pass-catching options like Travis Fulgham and John Hightower.
Though Arcega-Whiteside only logged 16 offensive snaps for the Eagles in Week 1 – good for roughly 23 percent of the team’s offensive snaps – he played a crucial role as a blocker both in space and on early screen throws to Quez Watkins on the team’s first drive. But wait, it gets better; according to Pro Football Focus, JJAW was the highest-ranked run-blocker of any player in the NFL regardless of position, which, obviously, is very impressive even if his sample size was rather meager.
But hey, don’t take my – or PFF’s – word for it, read for yourself what Nick Sirianni had to say on the subject via our pal Mike Kaye over at NJ.com.
Hmm, I don’t know if I’ve never heard of a wide receiver being rewarded with targets for their blocking efforts, but hey, I’ve only been covering the NFL for five years; what would I know?
If JJAW’s blocking was his only contribution to the team, he surely would have still earned positive grades for his performance in Week 1, but, in a move that speaks to his willingness to put ego aside in favor of the team, the pride of Zaragoza, Spain recorded 16 more snaps on specials teams – good for 62 percent of the total – and even logged a tackle on a seven-yard fourth-quarter return from Avery Williams.
Good production for a former second-round pick? No. Good production for a fifth wide receiver? Heck yes.
In the NFL, every player can’t be a star. Some, if not most, of the 53 men on any given active roster aren’t household names outside of football fanatics, and even fewer are going to generate the sort of hype that makes them transcend the sport altogether. Despite the hype coming into the NFL, with some calling him the next Alshon Jeffrey, JJ Arcega-Whiteside will likely spend his professional playing career in the former camp. But hey, if he can continue to make his presence known as an off-ball screener, while providing Michael Clay with some additional pop on special teams, he could still have a long and fruitful career with the Philadelphia Eagles.