Philadelphia Eagles: JJ Arcega-Whiteside finally makes a position change

(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

JJ Arcega-Whiteside was the Philadelphia Eagles‘ best wide receiver in 2021… at blocking.

That’s right, while he wasn’t a particularly effective pass catcher, was seldom targeted in games, and did very little when the ball actually did come his way, when the Birds needed an impact block on a designed run or a bubble screen, Nick Sirianni would turn to his team’s 2019 second-round pick to serve as a would-be lead blocker in space.

Seriously, in a move very few fans saw coming, the Eagles actually ran a play where JJAW lined up in the offensive backfield like a glorified fullback and helped to lead the way in the run game, where his 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame is actually pretty imposing versus slot cornerbacks and weakside linebackers.

Could we see more of JJAW as a fullback in 2022, should he actually make the team? Potentially so, but it won’t be as a wide receiver, as, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane, the pride of Stanford has finally decided to change positions and focus on making the Philadelphia Eagles as a full-time tight end.

JJAW might actually stick around with the Philadelphia Eagles at tight end.

Now, to be fair, the idea of JJ Arcega-Whiteside switching positions to tight end is nothing new. I wrote on the topic back in October of 2020, and I am far from the first person to do so.

Why, you may ask, has this topic been broached for literally years now? Well, because it makes a ton of sense.

At Stanford’s pro day, JJAW ran a 4.49 40, which isn’t particularly fast for a wide receiver – it ranks in the 57th percentile according to Mockdraftable – but is quite fast for a tight end, as it would place him in the same percentile, 97th, as Albert Okwuegbunam, who is among the fastest tight ends in NFL history. While Arcega-Whiteside is a good bit lighter than Okwuegbunam, 33 pounds lighter to be exact, his arm length is just one inch shorter and thus could be used as a move tight end in a similar way to the Denver Broncos’ new TE1.

To stick on Okwuegbunam for just a moment longer, one could argue that JJAW is already a better blocker than the fourth-round out of Missouri, both at the line of scrimmage and in open space, as Nick Siriainni’s club showcased over the vast majority of his 170 offensive snaps in 2021.

Furthermore, switching positions from wide receiver to tight end just makes good old-fashioned business sense for Arcega-Whiteside. JJAW is actually the Eagles’ sixth wide receiver heading into the 2022 NFL Draft, with the potential to see his team add one, two, or maybe even more wide receivers with their 10 picks and the UDFA period immediately following the final pick. Those odds aren’t particularly good for a lame-duck receiver in the final year of his rookie-scale contract.

By contrast, even if the Eagles were to draft one of the best tight ends in the 2022 class, say Colorado State’s Trey McBride, one could argue that JJAW would still slot in third on the team’s depth chart ahead of players like Noah Togiai and Jack Stoll.

While tight ends don’t make as much money as wide receivers, they certainly make more than International Relations majors with degrees from Stanford… right?

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Will this all work? Will JJ Arcega-Whiteside make an impact with the Philadelphia Eagles at tight end, remain a fixture of their block-heavy lineups, and finally make good on his potential as a red zone threat? Only time will tell, but after spending three years as a part-time player, to put it kindly, this is the best last chance JJAW has to stick around in the City of Brotherly Love, and the NFL in general, long-term. With Tyree Jackson likely out for most of the season, this feels like a no-lose situation.