Rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside flashed big-play ability against Ravens

Ed Kracz

We’ve been getting little nibbles here and there of the type of receiver rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is and can become since being drafted in the second round out of Stanford in April. On Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens, we got a big taste.

Arcega-Whiteside caught eight passes for 104 yards and a 20-yard touchdown, his first of the preseason.

“Definitely feels good to score the first one and hopefully I can keep it going and just keep getting better every week, keep scoring touchdowns for this team and help any way I can,” said JJAW.

Take your pick as to which catch was his best:

VIDEO: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside talks about his TD and more

Was it the scoop off the turf on a low throw from Josh McCown that jumpstarted a late in the half drive that ended with a missed 41-yard field goal from Jake Elliott?

“I caught it and was waiting for them to blow it dead, but I guess it didn’t touch the ground,” said Arcega-Whiteside. “The defensive back might have thought it touched the ground too, so with no whistle being blown, I just took off running.”

He ran for a 10-yard gain.

Was it the fourth-and-one grab that he snared and picked up another 21 yards or so after a smooth pivot and sprint?

“Once you get rolling, it’s not about what down it is, or what the distance is,” said Arcega-Whiteside. “It’s just go out there and do your job. If the ball comes to you, catch it and try to do something with it, no matter if its first, second, third, or fourth down. Me and Josh (McCown) started to get rolling and I just felt like I was going to catch whatever ball he threw to me. I was confident that we were going to make some plays out there.”

Or was it the touchdown catch, coming after a well-run route then a stretch for the catch and getting both feet down in bounds?

“It was funny because I was just talking to my coach and he was like, ‘Go out there and just play. Go out there, use your technique, but go out there, play fast, and do whatever you did at Stanford,’” said JJAW. “I was thinking right before that route, ‘I’m going to go out there and just play fast on this one and see what happens.’ Exactly what we had been practicing and training is what happened. I got open and was able to score a touchdown, so I’m pretty thankful for that.”

Arcega-Whiteside will no doubt have a role on this team once the season begins. How much of one, however, remains to be seen, with Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor expected to get the majority of reps.

“One of the things (about) J.J. is (he is) a hard worker,” said head coach Doug Pederson. “You see it in practice every day. He comes to work every day. He wants to get better. He wants to be taught. He wants to learn … I think that's what you saw tonight with him and his ability to make plays. The red zone we know he can be explosive.”

McCown has been around plenty of receivers in his 18 years in the league, and he paid an unsolicited complement to JJAW following the game.

“His preparedness to play is huge,” said the QB. “For a young player he carries himself the right way and works really hard.”

So what role is JJAW expecting, with veterans Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor ahead of him on the depth chart?

“I have no clue,” said Arcega-Whiteside. “Hopefully, I am put in a position where I can help the team win games, but I am just going to come out here, work hard, do whatever I can to help, and whatever role they have for me is what I am going to do.”