Being the Eagles’ wide receivers coach under Doug Pederson has been a feast-or-famine experience.
Pederson is on his fourth receivers coach in four years. Two of the first three — Greg Lewis and Gunter Brewer — were canned after one season. The other, Mike Groh, was promoted to offensive coordinator following the 2017 season after Frank Reich left to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
Brewer, who had been a career college assistant before Pederson hired him away from the University of North Carolina to replace Groh last year, was replaced by Carson Walch, who had been Brewer’s assistant.
Walch is taking over a unit that underperformed last season, which is a big reason why Brewer is back coaching college receivers at the University of Louisville.
The wideouts had just 13 touchdown catches, down from 20 the year before under Groh. They also were less productive on third down and in the red zone, and had just 24 catches of 20 yards or more, a far cry from the 57 the Rams’ wideouts had or the 39 by the Saints and Patriots.
“I’m extremely thankful to be working with coach Pederson and Mike Groh,’’ said Walch. “I’m excited with the room we have, the guys we have, and being a part of this offense and organization.’’
He should be excited. The Eagles have upgraded Walch’s room, and I’m not talking about new carpeting and a couple of fresh coats of paint on the walls. They signed veteran deep threat DeSean Jackson and added another contested-catch guy in the draft in 6-3, 221-pound second-rounder J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.
In defense of last year’s wideout group, the Eagles were a tight end-centric offense for much of the season. They used “12’’ personnel (1RB, 2TE, 2WR) on 37.1 percent of their offensive plays, up from 23.4 percent the year before. Their use of three-wide-receiver “11’’ personnel dropped from 65.1 percent in 2017 to 53.7 last year.
Zach Ertz and rookie Dallas Goedert combined for 12 touchdown catches, which was just one fewer than the team’s entire wide receiver corps. Their 149 catches, including a franchise-record 116 by Ertz, were just 39 fewer than all of the team’s wideouts.
While the Eagles likely will continue to use a lot of 12 personnel this season, they need their wideouts to step up, particularly on third down and in the red zone.
“Whatever personnel [grouping] coach Pederson calls, that’s what we’re going to go with,’’ Walch said. “We have a very unselfish room. So they’re not concerned with touchdown [catches]. They just want to play ball. They want to win football games.
“The only time we hear anything is when we’re not winning games. They want the ball more because they think they can help us win football games. But for the most part, being in that room last year, we didn’t hear much [complaining].’’
The Eagles are hoping that the addition of Jackson will open things up underneath for Ertz and Co., but also give the offense a vertical dimension they have lacked during Pederson’s first three years as the team’s head coach.
The Eagles have finished 30th, 21st and 15th in 20-plus-yard receptions the last three years. Just 24 of their 52 catches of 20 or more yards last season were by wide receivers. Jackson has had 42 catches of 20-plus yards by himself over the last three years, including 13 last year.
Walch said Jackson should help the Eagles’ passing game at all three levels — short and intermediate, as well as deep.
“You guys know DeSean Jackson,’’ he said. “The guy can track the ball. He can go deep. But he can play at all three levels. He’s not just a deep threat.
“Alshon [Jeffery] is a power forward. He’s a contested-catch guy. He can win at the line of scrimmage. He can make those plays at all three levels as well. But they’re different. And that’s what you want in a wide receiver group. You don’t want three or four guys who are the exact same guy.
“Between Howie [Roseman] and Joe Douglas and the guys in that [player personnel] room, they’ve done a great job of really giving us a great group of guys with different unique talents. And that’s what we’re looking for.’’
Walch, 41, worked with Groh in Chicago in 2013-14. Groh was the Bears’ wide receivers coach and Walch was an offensive quality control coach. Groh recommended Walch to Pederson last year.
“He’s an outstanding teacher,’’ Walch said of Groh. “He knows how to run a room. He’s very detailed. He’s the guy I look up to in the business.’’
Walch spent five years coaching in the Canadian Football League, three with Montreal (2010-12) and two with Edmonton (2016-17). He was Edmonton’s offensive coordinator and receivers coach.
“It’s a big passing league,’’ he said of the CFL. “You’re throwing the football three-quarters of the time, but it’s a great league. I had a good time there and learned a lot.’’
It will be interesting to see how Walch gets along with Jackson. Over the course of his career, Jackson has had his fair share of run-ins with position coaches and offensive coordinators when he thinks he’s not getting the ball thrown to him enough.
But we’ve been told this is a kinder, gentler DeSean; that age and fatherhood have mellowed him. We’ll see.
“You coach all guys a little bit differently,’’ Walch said. “All guys learn differently. So you have to coach them differently.
“With that being said, some guys like when you get after them a little bit. Some guys don’t want you to get after them around other people. So you build a relationship with these guys. You figure out what makes them tick. How they want to be coached. Then you put your stamp on each guy individually.’’