Bottoms Up for JJ Arcega-Whiteside
Perhaps the most volatile job at the NovaCare Complex over the past five years had been receivers coach where Aaron Moorehead steps in as No. 5 in Year 5 of the Doug Pederson era.
Greg Lewis, ironically a former roommate of Moorehead's at the University of Illinois, was followed by Mike Groh, Gunter Brewer, and Carson Walch. Of the previous four, only Groh could be labeled as a success but he was elevated to offensive coordinator after the 2017 Super Bowl season before ultimately being fired from that position after last season.
Moorehead is the first since Lewis to bring an NFL pedigree to the room having spent five seasons catching passes from Peyton Manning with Indianapolis. Moorhead's final season as a professional was 2007 and he was in the coaching ranks before reaching his 30th birthday as a grad assistant at New Mexico.
That grind continued for two years with David Shaw at Stanford before Moorehead got his first full-time coaching gig as the WR coach at Virginia Tech. Stints at Texas A&M, where Moorehead tried to recruit 2020 Eagles first-round pick Jalen Reagor, the son of Monte Reagor, a one-time ex-Eagle as well as Moorehead's former teammate with the Colts, and Vanderbilt followed.
Pederson then gave Moorehead the opportunity to get back in the NFL and halt the uncertainty at that position on his staff. To do that, Moorehead will have to turn around one of the worst WR corps in the league last season.
Injuries to DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, and the now-departed Nelson Agholor played a large role in the disappointment. The failure of rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, a 2019 second-round pick, also amplified the issues especially when you consider the success some other rookie WRs picked after JJAW elsewhere had, notably Seattle's D.K. Metcalf and Washington's Terry McLaurin.
Moorehead was brought in to polish the whole unit but he's also 6-foot-3 1/2 - and don't short him on the extra half-inch he joked to SI EagleMaven.
In other words, Moorehead is the same type of long, lengthy receiver the 6-2, 225-pound Arcega-Whiteside is, the type of player who needs to utilize the big frame whether it's on 50/50 balls, back-shoulder fades or body-position routes which put lesser-sized corners behind the 8-ball.
"I think you've got the ability to obviously be more natural for me as a coach because I played (in a similar fashion)," said Moorehead when asked about mentoring the bigger receivers like Arcega-Whiteside and Jeffery vs. the smaller ones who need to rely on other traits like Jackson.
"(It's easier) to coach the Alshons and the JJs, because I understand every move that they're making, I understand where their body is going. I get that and so those guys are easy."
Arcega-Whiteside has already been written off by too many and he's hardly mentioned when reporters talk to Pederson or Moorehead about a revamped receiving corps that figures to be built around Jackson, Reagor and Greg Ward, at least until Jeffery is fully recovered from a Lisfranc injury that short-circuited his 2019 campaign.
JJAW, a former star at Stanford, was dealing with his own lower-body injuries last season and played through them while learning both the X and Z positions due to attrition, so it seems specious to give up on such a high-level pick so early in his career.
"JJ is doing a great job," said Moorehead. "You know his experience last year of having to move around a little bit because of injuries been great for him. And like Jalen (Reagor) is doing a great job as well so you know the competition for camp so that's what camps all about it's about competing in every day, and trying to earn your spot on the team, and trying to make sure at the end of the day that you know we put the best 11 guys out there to play football when we're playing Washington."
From a coaching perspective, Moorhead's philosophy is "bring your bottom up."
"Whether it's routes, whether it's blocking, whether it's this this this, bring your bottom up," he said. "You bring your bottom up because your top is always gonna keep getting better. That's what you're good at and so you keep bringing your bottom up. That's how guys become really good players. That's how guys become from great players to elite players."
From a technical standpoint, Arcega-Whiteside's bottom is attention to detail, most notably sharpening his routes and making sure he's not fooling his quarterback. From a physical perspective, the now second-year player has to use his God-given skills and play as big as he actually is.
By no means is Moorehead a personal tutor but he admits the natural connection with a WR that has similar traits should be a help in reaching the ultimate goal.
"I think that all these guys have had things to work on but it is easier with a guy like JJ, I did it, like, I see it,” he said. “So we had a lot of conversations this offseason through our virtual meetings and things like that of just kind of trying to help clean up some things from a technical standpoint that I think will help him this season."
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM’s Tony Bruno Show with Harry Mayes, and every Tuesday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SBNation Radio. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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