PHILADELPHIA – By this point, the Eagles had expected a meaningful contributor when they drafted Jalen Reagor at No. 21 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft.
It’s never fair to assume anyone is going to be a legitimate star at this point in the process but when struggles ensue and the next player selected, Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson, becomes one of the best in the game at the same position?
Well, that’s what is called bad optics.
The dominos of Philadelphia “missing” on Reagor, meanwhile, were still being felt this offseason when the organization was forced to trade two premium draft picks and ante up $100 million to A.J. Brown, a year after they used No. 10 overall on DeVonta Smith.
The butterfly that affected the Eagles post-Reagor had some pretty strong wings to flap.
By the time the Eagles’ 2022 training camp rolled around Reagor was an afterthought when it came to Philadelphia offense, buried behind Brown, Smith, Quez Watkins, and Nick Sirianni-favorite Zach Pascal in the WR room with the debate raging on the Philadelphia airwaves being whether the Eagles should just take their medicine in the form of a significant salary-cap hit just to move on from Reagor.
The best-case scenario was always and remains a potential trade if the Eagles can find a way to kickstart Regaor’s value to a WR-desperate team that perhaps was enamored with the former TCU star when he was coming out.
No one should doubt Reagor’s athletic ability, however, which shines through on occasion be it on the punt return as a rookie in Green Bay, the Odell Beckham, Jr.-like one-handed stab in practice last year, or Thursday’s one-on-one dusting of camp star James Bradberry. Reagor was a first-round draft pick for a reason and it was always going to show up over the summer again.
Reagor started camp taking reps against second- and third-team cornerbacks, most of which can’t match his physical gifts. The opportunities to shine against the big boys were always going to come as well and manifested themselves this week thanks to a short illness to Watkins and a groin tweak for Smith.
On Tuesday a struggling offense found life when Jalen Hurts went deep to a streaking Reagor who hauled in the football for a 70-yard touchdown with Zech McPhearson trailing and Andre Chachere closing in.
All NFL players are talented, though, and what usually separates the stars like Jefferson is consistency.
Reagor has amassed just 64 receptions for 695 yards and three receiving touchdowns in the first two seasons of his career compared to 196 for 3,016 and 17 for Jefferson, the equivalent of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper squashing Frankie Williams in the 1980s. Every now and again, however, Reagor shows a little life and gets the shoulder off the canvas.
The question remains, is it fool’s gold?
The Eagles seem to think so.
Earlier in camp, Sirianni said Reagor was “battling” for a job even if GM Howie Roseman might disagree.
It’s now clear that Reagor is at worst the fifth-best WR in camp and it’s going to be very hard to argue that Pascal is better from a traits standpoint even when the veteran gets back in the swing of things full-time from his nasty bout with food poisoning.
Still, even after the signs of life, Sirianni is talking like Regaor’s ceiling is a few touches here or there.
“He’s working to get better every day, and I see improvements,” the coach said. “He’s making plays when there are opportunities. We talk to him a lot about him not going to get 11 chances a game like he did at TCU, but if he gets three, he has to take advantage of those three and [he] can’t leave them on the field.”
The Eagles have been burned too many times by Reagor to consider him a bird in the hand and that’s why a change of scenery is still the best path for both sides.