Jalen Reagor isn’t looking for a do-over. The wide receiver doesn’t want to experience another rookie season despite the Eagles’ significant change this offseason, and not just because it didn’t go the way he had hoped.
“That’s just making excuses,” Reagor said Tuesday. “At the end of the day, I got a job to do. Whoever’s here, I still have a job to do.”
But who is here now — a new coach, starting quarterback, and first-round receiver — does offer Reagor the opportunity to reload after a first year that was marred by inconsistency, injury, and a passing offense that was among the worst in the NFL.
Does it mean that the presence of Nick Sirianni, Jalen Hurts and, DeVonta Smith will automatically benefit Reagor? Not necessarily. Each has something to prove in their respective roles, just as the second-year receiver does. And it remains to be seen whether Smith will help or hinder Reagor’s development.
But the Eagles look much different, and on offense, Reagor did hint at how his role could change in Sirianni’s system.
“Every offense has similarities. We have some, but the only thing that’s pretty much different this year is just me being in the slot,” Reagor said following a light practice at the NovaCare Complex. “Honestly, I think this is going to make the whole team better. It’s not necessarily me being in the slot, but every receiver being interchangeable.”
Reagor did line up in the slot 23% of the time last season, so it’s not as if Doug Pederson had him exclusively outside. But the receiving roles in the former Eagles coach’s West Coast offense could be rigid. It also helped simplify the learning process.
While the Eagles’ overall struggles played a factor in Reagor’s ho-hum rookie year, as did several injuries, there’s no denying that he underwhelmed after being drafted in the first round. He had some moments, but his route running was unsteady, his ball skills unreliable, and most disappointing was the lack of explosion the Eagles hyped upon his selection.
In some ways, Reagor performed like most rookies. But if he had put up numbers anywhere close to the Vikings’ Justin Jefferson, the receiver the Eagles infamously passed on, or on par to several others who were drafted after him, the Eagles might not have traded up to the No. 10 pick for Smith.
“It was a great thing for this organization to do, to bring another weapon to the field, another weapon in our receiver room,” Reagor said of Smith. “We’re going to complement each other well. Like he said in his interview, there’s things that I can do he isn’t doing and vice versa.”
The two receivers certainly have their differences. Smith is reed-thin but long at 6-foot. Reagor is a compact 5-11 but has vertical skills. Both are fast by most estimates, but how that speed translates to the field can be another story. The most significant difference may be that Smith excelled at college’s highest level under great scrutiny, while Reagor’s experience was less intense.
Perhaps the Alabama product can alleviate some pressure, although Reagor’s production or lack thereof will mostly dictate his success or failure. He caught 31 of 54 targets (57.4%) for 396 yards (12.8 average) and a touchdown last season. He also returned a punt 73 yards for a score in Green Bay. Not bad for only 11 games.
But Reagor’s numbers paled in comparison to the other top 12 receivers drafted last year, particularly in the important metric of yards per route run. He finished 12th (1.3 yards) behind Jefferson (2.66), Chase Claypool (2.0), Tee Higgins (1.83), CeeDee Lamb (1.81), Brandon Aiyuk (1.73), Jerry Jeudy (1.66), Laviska Shenault (1.55), Denzel Mims (1.45), Van Jefferson (1.43), Michael Pittman, (1.38), and Henry Ruggs (1.32), and ahead of KJ Hamler (1.17).
“You’re going to see a whole lot of improvement,” Reagor said.
Asked for specific areas in which he intends to improve, he said: “Everything. Being a complete wide receiver. Mastering the things that take no talent, and then just fine tuning the details. Doing everything with intent, and just knowing that I’m blessed as well, letting my God-given ability take over.”
Reagor declined to go into detail about his offseason workouts. He did say that he practiced some with Hurts and fellow receivers Greg Ward and Quez Watkins.
While most of the coaching staff is new, the Eagles did retain receivers coach Aaron Moorehead. Sirianni also played the position in college and coached it all the way up the ranks. The former Colts offensive coordinator said upon his hiring that he studied Reagor intently before last year’s draft.
Reagor was gone by the time Indianapolis picked in the second round. The Colts took Pittman. New Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen was with the Chargers last year, but Reagor, and Jefferson, were off the board when they chose two spots later. They took linebacker Kenneth Murray.
“Jalen Reagor is an explosive football player,” Steichen said last week. “He showed up on film, had some big punt returns and big catches. His explosiveness and his ability to catch and get YAC, it’s awesome.
“Super excited to work with him. He’s going to be a good player.”
Despite suffering a shoulder injury during training camp and a torn thumb ligament early in the season, Reagor proved to be a fast healer and missed only five games. But he clearly believed the injuries stunted his growth.
He equated last year to being a freshman, and with it, of course, mistakes were made and learned from. One was how he dealt with social media criticism. He would sometimes respond to trolls and once blacked out his Instagram account.
“Not necessarily,” Reagor said when asked if he has learned to filter out the noise. He added: “People can say whatever they want to say, but if you respond, you’re wrong. But it is what it is. Like I said, I know what I can do better. That’s why I attacked this offseason the way I did.
“We’ll see if everybody has the same energy after this season.”
Reagor thinks he’s overdue.