Eagles Newfound Speed Should Prevent Offense from Stalling

The team drafted three pass catchers, traded for another, and all of them can fly, but will all be able to make the roster?

Maybe next spring when the world as we used to know it has hopefully returned to normal, the Eagles can enter a 4x100 relay team at the Penn Relays.

They have the horses to run it, and it would be something fun before OTAs ramp up in 2021.

Elders statesman DeSean Jackson could be the coach. Or let Jackson run and have Darren Sproles, now a consultant with the Eagles, be the coach.

There several new Eagles to sift through to build the relay team after the Eagles added four new receivers to the roster during the weekend’s 2020 NDL Draft.

First-round pick Jalen Reagor ran a 4.47 time at the Combine, but a 10-pound weight gain leading up to it hindered him. He’s more like 4.3 fast or faster.

Second-round pick John Hightower clocked a 4.43, sixth-round pick Quez Watkins ran a 4.35 and Marquise Goodwin, who the Eagles acquired from the San Francisco 49ers in a simple swap of sixth-round picks, clocked a 4.27 during the Combine in 2013 and was a two-time Gatorade Track and Field Athlete of the Year before becoming a three-time NCAA long jump champion at Texas.

Then there’s undrafted free agent running back Adrian Killins, who reached an agreement with the Eagles to sign a contract at some point. Killins ran a 4.37.

Yes indeed, if speed kills, the Eagles will be charged with murder this season.

All four receivers added to the Eagles’ pass-catching inventory aren’t just speedsters, but they have experience at actually catching passes and scoring touchdowns.

Whether all four newcomers will make the roster is another discussion. It is highly unlikely, but it will sort itself out.

Reagor had 148 receptions in three years at TCU for 2,248 yards and 22 touchdowns; Hightower had 82 catches in two years at Boise State for 1,447 yards and 14 TDs; Watkins had 159 receptions in three years at Southern Mississippi State for 2,404 yards and 17 scores.

Goodwin has been snake-bitten by injury but in his six NFL seasons he has 140 catches for 2,323 yards and 13 TDs.

Speaking of Goodwin, a comparison can be drawn to the Eagles signing Torrey Smith heading into the 2017 Super Bowl season despite a down year from Smith with the 49ers, having just 20 catches for 267 yards in 12 games. Goodwin had 12 for 186 in nine games last year.

“We got some young players that can really run, but they can also play the game,” said general manager Howie Roseman. “They understand how to run routes. They're not just track guys. They're guys that we really felt passionate about.”

Roseman said that when they drafted Hightower, there was a conversation about Watkins. Then the Eagles traded back for more picks and had the opportunity to land Watkins in the sixth round.

“We said, ‘Let's get both of these guys. These are guys that we feel passionately about, and let's add them to the team and let competition dictate what's best for our football team,’” said Roseman. “I feel like just with injuries and then adding to that situation, we're significantly better than what we were.”

When Jackson suffered a core muscle injury in the season opener and was shelved for all but a handful of plays the rest of the season, the Eagles’ offense clearly bogged down.

It looked like it was stuck in the mud without anyone to stretch the field and catch the ball because Nelson Agholor could stretch the field, he just had trouble making the catch.

Head coach Doug Pederson now has quite the stable of receivers to sort out, with this new batch joining holdovers Jackson, Alshon Jeffery (probably), Greg Ward, and J.J. Areca-Whiteside.

“Adding the speed element factors in,” said Pederson. “We play a ton of teams this past couple of seasons where it was hard to push the ball down the field, whether it was injury or whatever it was. This just allows us to, I think, open some things up. We have to do a great job as coaches, however, to coach our players and have them detailed and ready to go.”

Of course, when that sorting process will begin because the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep the country shuttered.

There could be very minimal training camp if any at all, so how much impact the rookie class will make in 2020 is open to debate.

“It has changed the look of the offense,” said Pederson. “I feel personally we're going to have to lean on our veteran players (if there is limited training camp). We're going to have to lean on DeSean Jackson and Greg Ward, who we know has come into his own and been on our team for couple years. Guys like that.

“And now Marquise Goodwin, a veteran player who understands the game, until we can get these young guys caught up. But I think the dynamic of the offense, I think what we've done as a staff in the offseason with our scheme evaluation, making things better, the staff hires that I've done this spring to bring in new thoughts and new ideas and ways to enhance our offense, I think it's going to look a little bit different.”