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Eagles Film: The minimizing of Jalen Reagor

Sometimes, receivers get markedly better in their second season and other times, they go the route of Jalen Reagor.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor (18) speaks with reporters before Philadelphia Eagles practice at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia, Pa. on Thursday, October 28, 2021. The Eagles face the Lions in Detroit on Sunday.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor (18) speaks with reporters before Philadelphia Eagles practice at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia, Pa. on Thursday, October 28, 2021. The Eagles face the Lions in Detroit on Sunday.Read moreMONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer

Jalen Reagor spent most of his rookie season being compared to the Vikings’ Justin Jefferson. But the juxtaposition is no longer applicable. The Eagles clearly picked the wrong receiver in the first round of last year’s draft.

The more relevant comparison that should have been made, though, was with teammate and fellow rookie Quez Watkins. A sixth-rounder, he didn’t play significant snaps until December.

But Watkins’ undeniable talent has corrected that oversight this season. And his emergence, along with Howie Roseman’s do-over first-round drafting of another wide receiver, DeVonta Smith, has placed Reagor lower on the pecking order of play-calling.

And his production, through seven games, is even worse than it was after a disappointing first season. There are myriad reasons for his regression, from the Eagles’ overall inefficiency to quarterback Jalen Hurts’ struggles, but the most obvious has been that he hasn’t earned more involvement.

“I think we’re looking through all those things,” offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said when asked about Reagor’s lack of targets. “Obviously, we have a lot of guys we want to get the football.”

But an argument could be made that the Eagles haven’t even done enough with option No. 1 (Smith) and No. 2 (tight end Dallas Goedert). Reagor, meanwhile, has seen fewer targets (11) than Watkins (19) and running back Kenny Gainwell (21) over the last four games.

Overall, his yards per route run (0.73 average) is 94th among 102 qualifying receivers in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus, and nearly half of what it was last season (1.30). (Watkins is 35th at 1.86 and Smith is tied for 57th at 1.50.)

“That’s not a question I can answer,” Reagor said Thursday when asked about his decreased involvement. “I’m doing my job to the best of my ability. That’s what I got to keep doing every week, and when opportunities come, just make them when they come my way.”

The Eagles have given him the ball: early in the season on screen passes, and for almost the entire season as both a punt and kick returner. He’s had a few bursts, but not often, and in other areas he hasn’t been consistent enough.

Reagor did draw two downfield pass-interference penalties against the Buccaneers, but his longest reception so far, in terms of depth of target, has been only 21 yards. He said the improvements he’s made the last year may not be recognizable to the untrained eye.

“I need to get better at everything. That’s forever going to be the motto,” Reagor said. “But it’s all what I do within the offense. To someone else it may look like I’m doing it this way, but that may be the way I need to do it.”

Reagor’s struggles are partly attributable to Sirianni and Hurts. There hasn’t been much of an intermediate passing attack. And there have been times when the quarterback has missed him when open, either with his arm or his eyes.

But the 22-year-old still has issues with route running, creating separation and winning contested balls. In the latter category, he hasn’t been the only one. Smith (3-of-13), Watkins (1-of-5) and Reagor (1-of-5), rank 87th and tied for 88th out of 102 NFL receivers in contested-catch rate.

“If I’m nitpicking one thing, it’s that we’ve got to continue to get better on the contested catches that we need to make when it’s there,” Sirianni said Wednesday when asked about the receiver group. “I’m not saying anything to you guys that I haven’t said to them, and so that’s where we’ve got to get better.

“But I’ve definitely seen improvement through all the other things, and I’m seeing improvement there.”

Reagor did flash his vertical leap late in Sunday’s loss at the Raiders. But a focused film review of the receiver revealed some of the same erraticism that plagued him last year, but also exposed the minimizing of his role.


Reagor has speed and can get behind defenses, but he has struggled at times to get off the line vs. man-press coverage. On this third and long, Smith (No. 6, up top) was the first read. But the Raiders had a safety shaded to his side and the man-defending cornerback had position.

Reagor’s route (No. 18, bottom) wasn’t terrible, but by the time Hurts (No. 1) looked his way, he was already out of his break and not open.

He hasn’t dropped many passes over his career -- just two, per PFF. But winning contested balls, or ones in tight spaces, like the one below, hasn’t come easy.

Reagor probably started upfield a touch too early and the ball went through his hands.

Speed element

Reagor didn’t run as fast at the NFL combine as he would have liked, but a 4.4-second 40-yard dash was nothing to sneeze at. He may not have the extra gear speedsters like Tyreek Hill have, but he’s more than quick enough. He might have had six points on the below play if Hurts hadn’t underthrown him.

He still drew a flag when he worked back for the ball.

But Reagor might have cost himself a touchdown when he eased up midway through his route. He again got the penalty, but this wasn’t the first time he gave up on a route too early (see: the 2020 opener at Washington).

Hurts hurting

Every quarterback is going to miss some throws. But Hurts hasn’t been accurate enough. Reagor’s comeback route here made the Bucs corner buckle. But his quarterback skipped the ball to him.

Reagor got open here on a two-man route concept with Watkins (No. 16) running a deep post. Hurts might have been shy because of the linebacker underneath. But as he scrambled, Reagor was wide open in the middle of the field. Hurts has a bad habit of dropping his eyes, though, once he’s off schedule.

Decreased role

After playing only 55 percent of the time in the first four games, Watkins has been on the field for 73 percent of the snaps in the last three games. Hurts had several options on this play-action roll out, but Watkins got open for a 27-yard gain. Reagor ran the jet action.

A few plays later, Sirianni tried to get Reagor involved with an inside handoff. But Jack Driscoll (No. 63) missed his block and the receiver was dropped for no gain.

Reagor’s usage on the rest of the drive reflected his employment for much of the last four games. He’s not the first, second, third, or in some cases, the fourth read. On this fade to Smith, Reagor (bottom) was merely a safety valve.

A few plays later, his short cross route did its job and helped free Goedert (No. 88) for a 21-yard grab.

But Reagor’s plays, like the below screen he took for a 24-yard touchdown in the opener, haven’t been dialed up as much.

Some of that has to do with how defenses have played the Eagles. But if Reagor could execute consistently the full route tree, or move around more, or create separation out of his breaks like Smith, he would have more opportunities. For all the preseason talk about Reagor playing more in the slot this season, he has been there less this season.

“I’m still out there,” Reagor said when asked how he remains engaged. “When the ball came at the end of the game -- you have to because you never know. You don’t want to be sulking because the time they do throw it, you got to make a play.”

Reagor skied for Hurts’ toss-up, landed on his feet and waltzed into the end zone. It was a meaningless touchdown, but it was also a reminder of his capabilities.

“I have a 43-inch vertical,” Reagor said. “If you throw it up, I’m most likely going to get it. I’m strong.”

The Eagles aren’t giving up on him. And there could be weeks when he’s more of the focal point with tight end Zach Ertz traded. But the combination of his inconsistencies, the blossoming of Smith and Watkins, and the Eagles’ overall offensive dysfunction suggest that the rest of Reagor’s sophomore season will be a lot like it was in the first seven weeks.