Asked about Jalen Reagor’s progress, Aaron Moorehead hyped his first-round rookie receiver with evangelical zeal.
“I think Jalen’s doing great. … Jalen’s due, and our group is due, for a big game. He’s been doing really well in practice, just coming back off of that thumb [injury], and he really hasn’t had any hesitation with it, which was really my biggest concern,” the Eagles’ wide receivers coach said Friday. “It’s a process sometimes with young guys. But, excited about where he’s at, honestly. I’ve been excited about Jalen.”
Moorehead’s tone came off as a bit jarring, to an audience of reporters who haven’t seen anything special from the wideout the Eagles drafted ahead of spectacular Vikings rookie Justin Jefferson.
Reagor suffered a shoulder injury in training camp. Then his broken thumb in Week 2 kept him out until the Dallas game Nov. 1, just before the bye. The hope at that time was that he would come charging out of the bye, for a receiving corps that desperately needed a boost.
Reagor’s results have been uniformly unspectacular – 19 catches for 222 yards and one touchdown in six games overall, 14 for 126 in the four games since the bye.
Jefferson, who has been healthy all season, has 52 catches for 918 yards (17.65 yards per catch, fourth-best in the NFL) and six touchdowns. He was taken 22nd, after the Eagles decided they preferred Reagor at 21st overall.
In Reagor’s most recent interview, last month, he bristled over being questioned about Jefferson’s success.
“It’s not for me to watch another man’s success and be like, ‘Oh, I wish I was ... ' I mean, it is what it is. He hasn’t had any injuries. I have,” Reagor said. “I can’t watch another man’s journey. I just have to be ready to conquer mine when the time comes.”
Moorehead said he believes the time is now, as the underdog, 3-7-1 Eagles travel to 8-3 Green Bay for an NFC game Sunday.
“Him missing those five games really stunted his development, and now it’s cranking back up, and [I’m] just excited for this weekend, excited to see what he’s going to do,” said Moorehead, a former Colts teammate of Reagor’s father, ex-NFL defensive tackle Montae Reagor.
“From his development standpoint, there’s a couple finer details, just as far as his day-to-day approach to practice, and making sure everything he’s doing in practice is going to carry over into the game,” Moorehead said.
“Working back to the football, not waiting on it, has been something we’ve really truly been focusing on, and then, you know, with some of his deeper routes, just kind of putting himself in a better position, where the DB can’t be right there and be able to kind of body him – he can use his strength and his speed to his advantage.”
The approach to practice was something that came up at TCU, before Reagor was drafted. The other issues Moorehead mentioned have been evident in games. Reagor hasn’t gotten the kind of separation fans expected, after the Eagles touted his speed. Moorehead indicated – and Eagles game film shows, at times – that Reagor sometimes does get open but isn’t targeted.
“There are times as a receiver where you’re wide open and you don’t get the ball. And the ball might be on the back side, or the ball might go to somebody else,” he said. “Then there’s times where the DB jams you up, or the guy just covers you, and you’re getting the ball [anyway]. That happens at our position. Jalen has certainly had more wins – he’s putting good things on tape.”
Given how Reagor felt last month about being compared to Jefferson, it seemed relevant to ask Moorehead how he thinks Reagor has dealt with the pressure of having been drafted so high.
“I think he’s dealt with it well. Early on, you could feel it a little bit on him; he wanted to press,” Moorehead said. “The thing about Jalen, he wants to be so good. Not for Jalen, he wants to be so good for Philadelphia. He wants to be so good for our organization here. He puts a lot of pressure on himself, and I love that about him.”
Another Eagles rookie, safety Grayland Arnold, said that in practice, Reagor is “shifty, fast, he gets the job done.” He added: “Me, I’m a big ‘Reag’ fan.”
Reagor’s only big-yardage catch so far was a 55-yarder in the season opener at Washington. Arnold, like Moorehead, said he feels an explosion is coming.
“Understand at any moment, it can be that play. Regardless if you haven’t see the play yet, it can be that play, where it can go for 100 quick, with Reag.”
Arnold, by the way, said he had a two-interception day for Baylor last season against TCU, one of them on a pass thrown to Reagor.
This week, the Eagles released veteran safety Will Parks and brought Arnold from the practice squad to the roster, while also indicating that fourth-round rookie K’Von Wallace will get more snaps down the stretch. If there is more of an emphasis on youth, on building for 2021, that has to benefit Reagor as well.
“For Jalen, it’s just not getting frustrated, understanding, you keep putting wins on tape. … Keep doing the things that we’re asking you to do and good things will happen,” Moorehead said.
“I’m excited to see him go out and finish these last five games, and see where that puts us, if that gives us a chance to go make a run in the playoffs, he’ll be an important piece of that.”
In the loss Monday to Seattle, there were several plays that were summed up as Carson Wentz’s not being on the same page with his receiving corps. One of those was a third-down screen in the red zone on which Reagor didn’t realize he was the receiver, and ran downfield. Moorehead, in his first season with the Eagles, insisted the situation is improving.
“You see the group trending in the right direction,” he said.
“The last three games have not been good enough. We know that. They know that. We have talked about that during the week, and the focus is to come out and put another day on tape, put another day on tape, and continually progress, so when you get to the next Sunday, you’ve done everything you can up until that point, and then go out Sunday, play with your hair on fire, and go make plays.”