It felt sort of like Jalen Reagor was a bit of an afterthought in the Eagles 32-6 win in the season opener, lost in the bright lights shining in the direction of quarterback Jalen Hurts, rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith, a defense that kept the Atlanta Falcons out of the end zone for 60 minutes, and the successful head coaching debut of Nick Sirianni.
Reagor’s fourth-quarter touchdown was merely the cherry on top of the blowout cake.
The 23-yard score, however, showcased the explosion and quickness Reagor can muster, something not always evident during his rookie season, but something head coach Nick Sirianni will take advantage of in creative ways that should make Reagor an effective weapon in his second season.
And perhaps it’s better that the spotlight didn’t find him.
Last year’s first-round draft pick may be best served with some time in the shadows while he polishes his game.
As it was, he ended with six catches, which tied him with Smith for game-high honors, and 49 yards.
Then, there was that other aspect of Reagor’s game that the Eagles seem intent on developing, and that is as a punt returner.
Exactly who would return punts was a mystery all last week, even though it was widely known Reagor was in the mix.
The Eagles were hesitant to use him much in that role a season ago. He had just four returns, one of which he took back 73 yards for a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers.
“Obviously, from his TCU days, he was very explosive,” said special team coordinator Michael Clay on Tuesday. “Obviously, you guys could see on that fourth quarter bubble screen (TD), you see the explosiveness. To have an athlete like that in open space, it puts added stress on the coverage unit, and it puts added stress on the opposing punter.”
Reagor had four returns against the Falcons and didn’t get far with them - yet. He averaged just 4.8 yards per return in Atlanta compared to the 20.8 yards he averaged on 15 returns in his final season at Texas Christian.
“He's all juiced up about (returning punts),” said Clay. “He's going to come out here (Wednesday) in practice, catch some punts from Arryn, and keep getting better and better.
“The more comfortable he is, he finally saw real live coverage teams. He's going to see those lanes and he’s going to help himself with gaining as many yards as possible.”
Reagor provides more of a threat in the return game than the receiver who handled those duties most of last year, Greg Ward.
Ward basically had the job because he was considered the safer option in catching the ball.
Reagor had some difficulty doing that during camp as a rookie, but, so far, he has looked sure-handed and much more confident, not only in Atlanta but throughout the summer.
“He caught the ball great,” Clay said. “There was one ball – the first punt actually – it was short, it was dying on him, and he saved us some yards on that one coming in with the fair catch, catching it at the 20-yard line.
"We all know if the ball bounces, you don't know what the bounce is going to look like. So, the first thing, I think Jalen did a heck of a job fielding the ball.”
Clay added that Reagor is getting better at communicating when the ball is in the air and where it might be landing referencing one Falcons punt that bounced and he told his teammates to get away from it.
“Jalen did a heck of a job communicating,” said Clay. “So, that was a big step for him to communicate, get everybody out so that the ball doesn't hit us out right there.
“Once again with Jalen, he's been getting better and better with his communication skills, with commanding the punt return team. The other players know, if they get these guys blocked up, we can make a big play.”
Patience is the key to making a big play, and not forcing something that might not be there. Clay likes what he sees there from Reagor as well.
“We're going to create and build to get better really,” said the ST coach. “Just understanding what the cover teams give you. They (the big plays) are going to come, just keep reiterating to himself, ‘They're going to come, they're going to come. It's a small gash, small gash, then the big one is going to come.’”
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 or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.