Carson Walch talks about catching a football in a way only an NFL wide receivers coach could.
“Rip it out of the air, put it away violently, and protect the football for our team,” the Eagles’ assistant coach said Monday. “We coach it from Day 1 and we’re still coaching it today.”
Drops have doomed the Eagles on multiple occasions this season; they’d likely be undefeated if not for two costly drops late in games against the Lions and Falcons. When asked how to correct the occasionally slick hands of the Eagles’ receiving corps, Walch didn’t sugarcoat it.
“When you talk to our group or you talk to any professional athlete that’s catching a football, it’s totally unacceptable,” Walch said of dropping the ball. “They don’t go out there with any plan in mind that they’re not going to catch every single ball. That’s what they’ve been trained to do their entire life.”
The Eagles’ skill-position players have 10 drops so far this year, with five credited to the receivers. The most costly one was a mental lapse by Nelson Agholor on the final drive against Atlanta. He let a pass that hit him in stride slip through his hands when a catch might have resulted in the go-ahead touchdown. The Eagles went on to lose.
On fourth down in the final minute against Detroit in Week 3, rookie receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside couldn’t haul in a deep pass from Wentz, although it was contested. In fact, Walch doesn’t consider Arcega-Whiteside’s missed opportunity a drop.
“That’s a 50-50 ball, both guys went up for the ball,” Walch said. “We expect J.J. to make that play, and J.J. will tell you the same thing.”
Is there ever an instance when an Eagles receiver shouldn’t win a 50-50 ball?
“It’s real life, you’re not going to win every 50-50 ball," Walch said. "But that’s a concerted effort in our room, that we win every 50-50 challenge.”
Part of the Eagles’ trouble stems from the Atlanta game. Tight end Dallas Goedert didn’t make it out of warmups without aggravating a calf injury, and starting receivers DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery both left with injuries in the first quarter.
Teams prepare to lose one or two players, but losing three of the offense’s top receiving threats in the first quarter hampered the plays the Eagles were able to call. It also forced players who typically get their work with the second- or third-team offense into the limelight.
Walch, in his 20th year of a coaching career that has included stints in college and the CFL, said it was one of the most hectic games he has coached.