Arcega-Whiteside is Ready to Help
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Any "day-to-day" lip service you might be hearing about Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson this week is just that.
Doug Pederson's top two receivers aren't playing against the Detroit Lions this Sunday and are unlikely to go in Green Bay on Sept. 26 as Jeffery works his way through a strained calf and Jackson plays it cautiously with a small tear in his abdomen.
In Atlanta on Sunday night that meant both Mack Hollins and rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside were pressed into action after a week spent servicing the defense on the scout team by mimicking Atlanta star Julio Jones. Jeffery was only able to play six snaps before tapping out and Jackson was in and out early, ultimately exciting after only 11 reps.
By the time the 24-20 setback ended Arcega-Whiteside, a second-round pick out of Stanford, had played 75 snaps (93 percent of the team's total) and Hollins was at 69 (85 percent).
The results were mixed especially early when Carson Wentz was not on the same page with either of his young wideouts although things did calm down a bit and Hollins did have some success with five receptions for 50 yards, while Arcega-Whiteside snared just one of four targets for four yards.
"I thought Mack obviously made a big impact in the game, a couple big catches, one on third down -- really two on third down late in the game," coach Doug Pederson said. "J.J. had a couple nice balls thrown his way. He's a big, physical guy. J.J. is a guy that's going to get better as Mack was a couple years ago, getting his feet wet. But both those guys are -- we'll see. Hopefully, they'll get an opportunity maybe to play a little bit more possibly this week. We have to get them prepared. But I'm excited for both of them and what they can do."
Things should be better this week if only because the game plan inserted will feature both Arcega-Whiteside and Hollins.
"In terms of practice, there's not a big difference," offensive coordinator Mike Groh explained. "Maybe lightening their load. ... they were servicing the defense and giving our defensive look and reps in Julio. So you know, they won't be as involved in something like that."
Groh, though, noted everyone needs to be ready at all times.
"We expect those guys to know the game plan and be ready to step up if their number's called and I think they were," the OC explained. "They were prepared. I know J.J. spent extra time on several days last week, going over the game plan at multiple different positions, which as a backup receiver in the NFL, that's part of your job. You don't just know one spot. You've got to know more than one spot in case something like this happens, and I think just another week into it, just another week for him, as a young player, can only be beneficial for him."
Although the numbers weren't necessarily there for Arcega-Whiteside against the Falcons plenty was accomplished.
“It was good because I think I proved to a lot of people, and even myself, that when adversity strikes, I’ll be ready to go out there and do my job,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “There were some things here and there that I could have done better, but overall I would say I did good."
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, a former head coach in Detroit, assessed the next-man-up mentality.
"You've seen it all. You lose guys in pregame warmups. I've been on teams where we lost guys, went to bed and we were great, and we woke up the next morning and a guy is in the hospital getting an appendectomy," he said. "Goes along with the territory. It's part of the job description. You have to work with what you have and find a way to get through that game. It just is what it is."
The no-excuses mantra may be a way of life for NFL coaches but it's also a bit of bluster. It simply easier to get something accomplished when the plan you put together doesn't have to be scrapped after a handful of plays.
“It’s tough because you just don’t know,” Arcega-Whiteside admitted. “If you’re not a starter, you don’t know what’s going to happen. Just preparing as if you are a starter, know every single play in and out, know what the coach’s thinking is, then when you go out there you don’t have to think you can just play.”
Arcega-Whiteside should be getting that opportunity this week.
"He'll obviously get the reps with the ones," Pederson said.
“I’m ready,” Arcega-Whiteside insisted. “That’s what I’ve dreamed about. That’s why I’m here, to help this team win.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen