Moments after Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor failed to haul in a pass from quarterback Jalen Hurts during the early portion of Wednesday’s training camp practice, coach Nick Sirianni jumped in front of Reagor and barked out instructions.
Sirianni was animated: He was livid.
He used a variety of gestures as he offered Reagor, a 2020 first-round pick, constructive criticism. This has been a familiar sight from Sirianni and the rest of Philadelphia’s coaching staff. Since camp kicked off one week ago, Eagles staffers have been extremely vocal with players during practices, and that has been especially true with the wide receivers.
“This year with the receivers, they’re on us a lot more,” second-year wideout Quez Watkins said. “We are young, but we’ve got to grow up now.
“It’s our time now.”
With the exception of Greg Ward, 26, and Andre Patton, 27, who was added to the roster last week, all of the team’s receivers are 25 or younger. The Eagles elevated the group’s talent level in April when they tabbed DeVonta Smith with their top draft pick at No. 10 overall. But the reigning Heisman Trophy winner is sidelined with an MCL sprain and is expected to miss from two to three weeks.
The Eagles will happily welcome the former Alabama receiver back whenever he has recovered from his knee injury. But for now, these practice reps are crucial for the rest of the depth chart, which consists of young and inexperienced players.
Sirianni is rooted in a wide receiver background and boasts an offensive mind. That’s part of the reason why he’s wasted no time in coaching up — and at times, chewing out — the group.
“I’ve been very pleased with the entire group,” Sirianni said. “I think [passing game coordinator] Kevin Patullo keeps coming up to me and he keeps saying, ‘We didn’t have this speed in Indy.’ We’re seeing that we’ve got some guys that can really run.
“... Really excited about the group as a whole because I really feel like [Eagles general manager] Howie Roseman and his staff have done such a good job of getting players in here that we can work with and develop.”
The key word from Sirianni’s response when asked about the opportunity in front of the wide receivers is “develop.”
The bar was set extremely low by last year’s offense. Former Eagles and current Colts quarterback Carson Wentz’s struggles factored into the attack’s lack of production, but there was plenty of blame to pass around. Travis Fulgham was the only receiver to record more than 500 receiving yards.
“That’s the beauty of it, a lot of people are sleeping on our receiver room,” Fulgham said. “But we have a bunch of young, talented guys who are ready to make plays this year.”
The Eagles ranked 24th in the NFL in total offense last season with 334.6 yards per game. The passing game was worse at 28th with 207.9 yards per contest. Not a single player recorded double-digit touchdowns. The closest was Ward with six touchdowns; Fulgham was second with four.
Fulgham acknowledged that the receivers have kept tabs on what’s being said about the group’s inexperience. He said they are eager to answer the lingering doubts that hover over them.
“Media — we see it every day, online and whatnot,” Fulgham said. “I try to keep off those things, but you still manage to hear those things in the locker room. We’re ready to beat the challenge.”
Players say they’ve been receptive to Sirianni’s intense style of coaching. Additionally, wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead, who was retained by Sirianni from former coach Doug Pederson’s staff, has been hands-on with his correctional approach.
Besides Smith, Watkins has surprisingly flashed the most in camp. After getting some late-season reps and recording 106 yards on seven catches with one touchdown, Watkins said he focused on improving his strength, route running and consistency in the offseason.
Watkins and several teammates also spent time working out with Hurts, and it has shown in the duo’s early rapport. Hurts also has a good built-in chemistry with Smith, his former teammate at Alabama.
The Eagles have defined Smith as the clear alpha of the group. Still, he is only a rookie, and Smith is already missing practices during his first NFL training camp. It’s evident that Hurts needs to find similar chemistry with other receivers and build on those relationships at a rapid pace as the season approaches.
Thus far, Sirianni has prioritized that.
“[Sirianni] is always being detailed with the receivers,” Watkins said. “We’re all young. We always hear him say, ‘Power Step!’ or ‘Get vertical!’ or ‘Get your foot in the ground!’
“He’s always in our ear helping us out.”