Jalen Reagor’s crucial third down-catch: A sign of what’s to come for Eagle?
“I see the dedication in everything he’s doing,” Jalen Hurts says of the receiver. “I see the focus and the ‘want to.’"
Jalen Reagor is aware that the comparisons from NFL pundits and fans between him and Justin Jefferson will never go away.
The Eagles selected Reagor, a former Texas Christian standout, at No. 21 in the 2020 draft. Immediately after, the Vikings scooped up Jefferson. Nearly two seasons later, the results between the two wideouts are as loud as they are telling.
Jefferson was named Wednesday to his second Pro Bowl in as many seasons. Meanwhile, Reagor is still attempting to find his place within the Eagles’ offense.
Reagor’s lack of production from last season was so poor it forced general manager Howie Roseman to supplement the receivers with another No. 1 draft pick in DeVonta Smith. Luckily for the Eagles, Smith has been as good as advertised.
Smith’s production as WR1 — a team-best 53 catches and 741 yards — has helped alleviate some of the pressure that comes with being a first-round pick, pressure that has mounted high onto Reagor’s shoulders.
Here are the numbers for the two 2020 first-round picks.
Jefferson: 30 games, 262 targets, 177 catches, 2,735 receiving yards, 16 touchdowns, 122 first downs receiving.
Reagor: 25 games, 103 targets, 60 catches, 661 receiving yards, three touchdowns, 30 first downs receiving.
Reagor had an opportunity to change the script about him last month when the Eagles visited the New York Giants. Late in the game, he had two tries at hauling in what would’ve been the game-winning touchdown reception, but he infamously dropped both passes from quarterback Jalen Hurts. The Eagles lost, 13-7.
Instantly, Reagor turned into a living meme across social media, which he said he has ridden himself from in order to prioritize his mental health and compartmentalize his life away from the football field.
“Just to take ownership,” Reagor said after the loss. “It’s not on one person or one specific thing, but to take ownership of what happened in that scenario ... Just two drops — I would say very uncharacteristic. You’ve just got to go through the highs and lows and go to the next week and make plays.”
Truthfully, Reagor hasn’t made many plays since arriving in Philadelphia. The Eagles have afforded him opportunities — both in the return game and as a receiver — but he hasn’t cashed in much.
However, Reagor is coming off one of his best games this season. Against Washington, he had three catches for a season-high 57 receiving yards.
His most explosive sequence occurred on a crucial third-and-6 near midfield late in the fourth quarter. On the play, Hurts made a check at the line of scrimmage, motioning Reagor from left to right. After the snap, Reagor ran a quick hitch that developed into a wide receiver screen. Thanks to good space and blocking, Reagor exploded for a 34-yard gain down the right sideline and into the red zone to effectively help end the game.
Asked about Reagor’s development, Hurts was direct in his choice of words, saying that nothing else matters but the present.
“I see the dedication in everything he’s doing,” Hurts said of Reagor. “I see the focus and the ‘want to.’ He always goes out there with the mentality of playing dominant football. I think he’s continued to grow throughout the year. Nothing else matters — honestly, nothing else matters about the past. It’s about what you do now. I think he stepped up for us big Tuesday night.
Added Smith: “He comes in and works like all of us. When the ball comes to him, he’s going to make his plays. He works hard, the attention to detail ... as a teammate, I’m excited to see that. He’s keeping his head on straight and he’s locked in.”
The fans might have a locked perception of Reagor, but his teammates are vowing to support him through the struggles. He hasn’t progressed much as a route runner, but Reagor still possesses burst and might be best suited as a gadget-type player in the screen game.
It’s possible Tuesday might have served as a blueprint for first-year coach Nick Sirianni on how to effectively use Reagor within the offense.
After some early mishaps and imbalance, Sirianni has improved drastically as a play-caller. As the season has progressed, he has relied heavily on a run-first attack — producing historical results with 175-plus rushing yards in seven consecutive games — and he has designed packages that prioritize the team’s top weapons. Tight end Dallas Goedert has produced back-to-back career-high games with a combined 240 receiving yards against the Giants and Washington.
Sirianni also has developed a better in-game relationship with Hurts, who ultimately decides where the football goes.
“My job is to get the play, call the play, and execute the play,” Hurts said Thursday.
As for Reagor, he’s hoping the rushing attack continues to bulldoze opponents. In turn, he believes that’ll open up more opportunities for him in the passing game to show he belongs.
His next opportunity happens to be against the same opponent from his multi-drop outing. With their playoff lives on the line, the Eagles host the Giants at 1 p.m. Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
“It just feels like we’re putting everything together, putting the pieces together,” Reagor said. “It’s within the offense. Just being where I’m supposed to be and making the plays when my number is called.”