The Philadelphia Eagles thought they selected a game-changing talent when they took Jalen Reagor with the 21st overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. But after dominating defensive backs during his days at TCU, the speedy receiver didn’t come close to delivering on his first-round pedigree as a rookie. To make matters worse, Justin Jefferson — who went off the board right after Reagor — put together one of the most impressive seasons by any first-year receiver in NFL history.
Unfortunately for Philadelphia’s young wideout, a recent tragedy caused him to suffer a setback at the worst possible time. And while Reagor can still cement his status as a long-term building block for the Eagles, a few of his teammates face even more pressure to step up before it’s too late.
Jalen Reagor didn’t live up to expectations as a rookie
The Eagles entered the 2020 NFL Draft with an opportunity to significantly upgrade their uninspiring offense. Unfortunately for general manager Howie Roseman, his attempt to infuse Philadelphia’s passing game with more talent didn’t pay off.
At least, not yet.
While Jefferson racked up 88 catches for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns in his first year with the Minnesota Vikings, the receiver drafted one spot ahead of him put up rather pedestrian numbers by comparison. Limited to 11 games by a torn thumb ligament, Reagor posted a disappointing final line of 31/396/1. Although he finished fourth on the team in receiving yards, the 5-foot-11, 206-pound wideout only caught 57.4% of his targets.
Of course, it’s fair to point out that Reagor entered the league at an unprecedented time. The COVID-19 pandemic had a major effect on the NFL’s offseason program, so it’s possible that he would have performed better under different circumstances. Plus, the talented pass-catcher suffered a shoulder injury in training camp that kept him off the practice field for most of the summer.
Unfortunately for Reagor, a tragic event caused him to get off to a rough start this summer, too.
The murder of a close friend has caused the promising second-year receiver to suffer a setback at the worst possible time
After struggling to make an impact in his first year with the Eagles, Reagor entered training camp with a point to prove.
However, he also returned to work with a heavy heart. And that ultimately led to a setback for the promising second-year receiver.
According to Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Reagor failed Tuesday’s conditioning test and was subsequently added to Wednesday’s injury report with “lower body tightness.” Per McLane, the recent murder of Reagor’s childhood friend “has weighed heavily on the 22-year-old,” and the Eagles believe it affected his readiness and performance at the start of camp. Coming off a less-than-stellar rookie season, Reagor can’t afford to fall behind as new offensive coordinator Shane Steichen installs his system.
Losing a friend or loved one can have a monumental impact on someone’s mental health and emotional well-being. Unfortunately for Reagor, his friend’s unexpected death seems to have affected his physical health, too. However, there’s still plenty of hope about a brighter future for a player who showcased elite playmaking ability as a receiver and returner in college.
But even if Reagor turns things around over the ensuing weeks, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Eagles will be in good shape heading into the 2021 season.
Reagor isn’t the only recent high draft pick who has questions to answer as the Eagles prepare for the 2021 season
Reagor needs to impress in training camp to solidify his status as a starter. However, he isn’t the only recent high draft pick who has a lot to prove this summer.
Sticking with the same side of the ball, there’s no doubt Jalen Hurts faces the most pivotal few months of his life. The 2020 second-round pick should open the 2021 season as the Eagles’ starting quarterback. However, if the former collegiate star struggles to lead Philadelphia’s offense, he could get replaced next offseason.
In addition, 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard must step up before time runs out. A talented athlete with an intriguing skill set, the 6-foot-5, 315-pound left tackle missed the entire 2020 season with a torn biceps. The physically gifted offensive linemen can’t afford any injury setbacks if he plans on calling Philadelphia home for years to come.
Plus, JJ Arcega-Whiteside — who arrived as the 57th overall pick in 2019 — faces a make-or-break year. With only 14 catches to his name, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound receiver looks in danger of becoming a draft bust if he can’t produce in 2021.
Don’t forget about the defense, either.
Fifth-year pro Derek Barnett has shown flashes of potential, but the Eagles certainly expected more than 19.5 sacks when they selected him with the 14th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. As an impending free agent, the 6-foot-3, 259-pound defensive end has plenty of motivation to play at a high level this season. If Barnett doesn’t elevate his game, he will likely have to find a new NFL home next spring.
Needless to say, the pressure is firmly on several young Eagles players — including Jalen Reagor — to rise to the occasion before time runs out.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.