PHILADELPHIA – Each year, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has gone back to the drawing board.
Each time he has, it hasn’t worked.
Arcega-Whiteside, though, hasn’t given up. If it doesn’t work this time, however, the Eagles may give up on him.
Fans may have already written him off but give some credit to the former second-round pick in 2019, he keeps on trying.
“The biggest thing for me is just being myself,” said Arcega-Whiteside following Wednesday’s practice, the seventh one of training camp. “In the past, I feel like I’ve been trying to be a lot at once, show that I can do this, show that I can do that, prove this and that.
“Just going back to the basics and what helped me out in college – being great at the things that require no talent, and let the talent take over when it’s time for the talent to take over, and not the opposite of trying to show everyone how talented I am and do this and that. Next thing you know, I’m being somebody I’m not. That’s been the biggest thing for me personally that I’m taking the approach to in camp.”
It looks like it’s working.
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Arcega-Whiteside has been having a nice training camp, thus far. Of course, those same words were written last year, too.
In the limited number of practices the media was able to watch in 2020 due to the global pandemic, Arcega-Whiteside looked poised for a big jump from his rookie season to Year Two.
Instead, there was nothing but a fizzle.
As a rookie, JJAW played 16 games with five starts, catching 10 passes for 169 yards and one TD.
Last season, he played just eight games while battling some injuries, did not start a single game, and had just four receptions for 85 yards and no touchdowns.
“It wasn’t a confidence thing, more a comfortable thing,”: said Arcega-Whiteside. “I feel comfortable out here. I feel like I’m back to myself. Years past, I’ve done things like I heard this guy did this, I have to do this, this is what worked for him, so it has to work for me, right?
“I had a lot of self-reflections and go back to doing what I did, what worked for me in college, stick to that and build off of that instead of straying away from what got me here in the first place.”
The injuries in 2020, Arcega-Whiteside, said had to do with him trying to be someone he isn’t.
“When you get into the NFL, you get introduced to a lot of things, a long list of things,” he added. “It’s like, oh this guy does this, this guy does that. I don’t want to get into it because everybody kind of does their own thing, but you hear these things and you want to go try it for itself.
“Honestly, the biggest thing that I probably changed this offseason was taking care of my body. I’m not going out there and emptying the gas tank every day because you hear, oh this guy works super hard and that’s why he is who he is so I gotta go do that. Then you run into other issues. My body’s not used to doing that or doing certain movements, or certain workouts or certain drills. So, I just kind of honed in on what worked for me in college.”
So, Arcega-Whiteside went back to college.
He got in touch with his former strength coach at Stanford.
“(I) was like what worked for me in college?” JJAW said. “What was my plan? He gave me my plan from college and said listen, just do that because that’s what you did in college and that’s how you became who you are. That’s basically what I did. I did that plan that we had set from when I was a sophomore in college. I felt like in that moment I grew and got better and better.”
Just how much better, well, it better be plenty, otherwise, Arcega-Whiteside may be an ex-Eagle by the time summer ends.
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.