The biggest disappointment of the Eagles' ungainly struggle to beat Dallas just before the bye was that the home team’s offense did not click into gear against a subpar defense despite some notable returnees from the injury list.
Maybe those expectations were unrealistic, with rookie first-round wide receiver Jalen Reagor playing for the first time since sustaining a broken thumb in Week 2, and tight end Dallas Goedert taking the field for the first time since suffering an ankle injury Week 3. Neither Reagor nor Goedert had a spectacular impact that night.
Reagor scored a touchdown and caught a two-point conversion pass, but he finished with just three catches on six targets for 16 yards. Goedert was targeted only twice, and made one catch, for 15 yards.
But when the Eagles travel to MetLife Stadium to face the Giants on Sunday, Reagor and Goedert will have had a bye week and a full practice week to get back into the flow. They are expected to be joined by left guard Isaac Seumalo, out since Week 2 with a knee injury, and right tackle Lane Johnson, who missed the Dallas game with knee and ankle injuries. Better protection might help struggling quarterback Carson Wentz as much as having Reagor and Goedert fully functional.
Reagor, asked Thursday what’s required for him to connect with Wentz on the longer throws that were a big reason why Reagor was drafted, said, in part, “having the chemistry and the reps in practice.”
Goedert said that in the Dallas game, “I was a little winded here and there.” With Zach Ertz still sidelined by an ankle injury, Goedert played 53 of a possible 63 snaps. “It was to be expected, but it’s a lot better this week,” he said. “We are starting to get pieces back, which is really exciting.”
Speaking of which, Sunday is looking like the long-awaited season debut of veteran wideout Alshon Jeffery, who underwent foot surgery last December. Reporters haven’t been able to speak with Jeffery, and we don’t know what his role might be. Some fans fear that Jeffery, 30, might take snaps away from Reagor or emerging star Travis Fulgham, who has 29 catches for 435 yards and four touchdowns in just five games.
Reagor said that Jeffery has been a great help to him, starting on the night Reagor was drafted.
“Alshon texted me [after the pick was announced]. He let me know that I can ask him anything,” Reagor said. “In the meeting rooms, on the field, or anything, he’ll say, ‘You could have done this better.’ Or, ‘That was a good route.’ We’re getting a great player back. Obviously, you guys know that.”
Goedert was asked about meshing with Reagor and Fulgham.
“Both practice and games with those young guys [is] a ton of fun,” Goedert said. "They have a lot of energy, they’re flying around, they’re both playmakers.
“You’ve seen what Travis has done, going up and getting it, catching touchdowns and just doing everything we asked of him. … Getting Jalen back has been awesome. … Big things are to come from him. He’s a great player.”
Reagor has a no-nonsense demeanor. He said Thursday that his family motivates him, including his father, former defensive tackle Montae Reagor, who finished his nine-year NFL career as an Eagle in 2007.
“They don’t tell me I’m great. … My dad played nine years in the NFL, and he’s very constructive. He critiques me a lot. That’s why I have the character I have. That’s why I’m the way I am," Reagor said. "I don’t let a lot of things bother me.”
Getting this receiving group relatively healthy and in sync with Wentz is central to the 3-4-1 Eagles' hopes of winning the NFC East, and central to their offensive nucleus beyond 2020 (Jeffery probably excepted).
As Wentz put it this week, “We’re learning and growing together on the fly.”
“Usually you have offseason. You have spring. You get some summer workouts together, and then you get training camp,” Wentz said. "Training camp was even limited this year, and Travis came late [on waivers from the Packers Aug. 20]. So all of those things, we’re kind of growing our chemistry and our communication on the fly, and it’s been exciting and encouraging to see.
“Obviously, we can be better, I can be better and be more on the same page with these guys, but it is encouraging to see them step up and make big plays. … The second half of the season, I think you’ll keep seeing more of it.”
Goedert wasn’t a big part of the game plan against Dallas because no one was sure he’d be ready to play until the end of that practice week. But he did have an impact as a blocker, something that he wasn’t really known for coming out of South Dakota State as a 2018 second-round pick.
“When I first got here, obviously, Zach was here, so kind of, blocking was my way onto the field,” Goedert said. “I’ve just been able to get better and better at it, learn little things. But I take a lot of pride in it. I like to think I’m one of the people in the trenches, you know? I get to hang out with the O-line. I get to hang out with the wide receivers. I get the best of both worlds.”