Who should be the 5th wide receiver for the Eagles?

This new series of articles will dive into the key position battles to watch during camp that will help decide who should make the final 53 man roster this season for the Eagles. I have called it: Yes, No, Maybe so, and will present three options at five positions.

The Eagles recently added 2022 UDFA Keric Wheatfall and 2020 Jacksonville Jaguar UDFA, Josh Hammond. This brings the Philadelphia Eagles to 12 total wide receivers on the roster entering OTA’s.

Howie has done a good job of getting an interesting blend of receivers for Nick Sirianni to decide between at the 5th and potential 6th wide receiver spots. Speed. Size. Return specialists. Oh the possibilities!

This article assumes the four wide receivers who will be locked into 2022 roster spots are: recently acquired superstar A.J. Brown, 2021 draft stud DeVonta Smith, speedster and front office favorite Quez Watkins and former Nick Sirianni coached and JJAW replacement, Zach Pascal.

Time to find number five.

Yes: Britain Covey

The Eagles are now a team with limited glaring needs. Howie did a great job bolstering the defensive line inside and out. He also got a true #1 wide receiver and locked down Jason Kelce’s successor among other big offseason moves. Now, the focus should be on filling in the ancillary needs that exist.

By now, everybody knows that Jalen Reagor’s days seem numbered in Philadelphia. As the primary punt returner, he returned 31 punts last season with Greg Ward returning 2. Reagor also returned 12 kickoffs with Kenneth Gainwell and Quez Watkins returning 8 and 4 other players returning 3 or less. The Eagles ended up ranked 27th in yards per punt return at an abysmal 7.2. This is also while ranking 29th in yards per kickoff return at 18.5.

Reagor threw an exclamation point on those stats by muffing two punts wild card weekend against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This tied him for 2nd in the NFL with three total muffs on the season.

There was a time when the Eagles were a revered group on special teams. Philadelphia spent three seasons as a top five special teams unit from 2014-16. They have since regressed every year. It is time for some attention to come back to special teams and finding success at all three facets of the game.

Britain Covey immediately steps in as a return specialist. He’s someone the Eagles can put their faith into to turn this return game around. Despite being undersized at 5’8 and 169 lbs., he is scrappy, physical and comes with a beautiful resume from college. His scrappy and physical play style alone put him a step above Reagor in the return game.

Covey was selected All-Pac-12 five times, four as a returner including this past season as All-Pac-12 first team. He returned 12 kickoffs for 360 yards and a touchdown. Plus, he returned 29 punts for 427 yards and two touchdowns. Covey was primarily as a returner, but also lined up at slot receiver. He finished last season in Utah with 100 all-purpose yards per game.

As the 5th wide receiver on the roster, we shouldn’t expect a star. We should expect a player who can contribute when called upon on offense, but more importantly a core special teamer. Covey’s 1400 all-purpose yards in 2021: 99 rushing, 514 receiving and 787 total return yards all sound like a great piece of weaponry for Sirianni and special teams coordinator Michael Clay.

No: Jalen Reagor

Howie Roseman can say Reagor is going nowhere until he’s blue in the face. However, when push comes to shove and that roster needs to be cut down, can a roster spot really be justified in giving Reagor a third chance? There seems to be a new movement in Philadelphia and there needs to be spots available for productive, young pieces who can succeed in their given role. 

Reagor has been a bona-fide, 1st round bust and comparing him to Justin Jefferson, who was drafted one pick later, each offseason just makes the decision to draft him look that much worse. 

It feels like Roseman is playing the self-preservation game with Reagor due to the first-round capital wasted on him. The reality is, Reagor is two years into his NFL career and Sirianni seems at a loss for how to use him. He seemingly lacks crucial pieces of the skillset to be effective and win outside while also being underwhelming last season in the screen game and run game. And as mentioned above, very frustrating on special teams.

Across two seasons and 28 games played, Reagor’s total offensive production is 64 receptions on 111 targets, 753 total yards from scrimmage and 3 total touchdowns. What’s worse? He has more career fumbles than touchdowns. I would say playing 67% of total offensive snaps across two seasons, seeing 111 targets and producing those disappointing numbers is more than enough sample size to justify moving on.

Reagor needs to take a big step forward in offseason workouts and the preseason for the Eagles to be willing to invest a roster spot on him in 2022. He had personal circumstances that caused him to struggle with mental health during the 2021 offseason. Maybe the 2022 offseason can be different, but at this point there is no reason for the Eagles to commit any further. A change of scenery would benefit both parties. Any type of draft capital in a trade return should be welcomed by Howie.

Maybe So: Greg Ward

Beyond the two above-mentioned names, there are project wide receivers who, at least a couple, will likely land on the practice squad. They are Keric Wheatfall, Josh Hammond and Devon Allen. Plus, a couple wide receivers looking for a chance to make the cut and put things together once and for all: John Hightower and Deon Cain.

Then, there is a trusted staple of the Eagles wide receiver room for the last 3 seasons, Greg Ward. Ward has played 40 games with the Eagles over the last 3 seasons, including playing in all 33 games over the last 2 seasons. Last year, he played 22% of offensive snaps and 28% of special teams snaps. After growth from 2019 to 2020, he took a massive step back last season.

During 2020, Ward was targeted 79 times, making 53 catches for 419 yards and 6 touchdowns. The arrival of DeVonta Smith and emergence of Quez Watkins, pushed Ward down the already limited available target list. The Eagles offense ranked 29th in pass attempts per game at 29.8. Ward capped off 2021 with 11 targets, 7 receptions and 95 yards with 3 TDs. At least he scored a touchdown on nearly 50% of his receptions.

Ward is the safe bet for the Eagles. They have gone through some nice ups and some very unexciting downs. We have seen the ceiling and the floor with him. If you target him, he can, more often than not, be trusted to do something with it, which is great! However, he’s unexciting in the return game. And Zach Pascal, who also played over 60% of snaps in the slot last season in Indianapolis, will take snaps as a big slot guy and contribute significantly as a blocker whereas Ward cannot.

What type of role will exist for Ward? Well, he has a place in Eagles fans hearts. However, he seemed to hit rock bottom in 2021 versus 2020. Barring any of the other names showing out in camp and the Eagles opting to keep a 6th wide receiver, which is very possible, Ward’s time as an Eagle may very well be up.

Rounding out the roster

The 5th wide receiver may seem like an unimportant role. But there is one name that stands out to me, that with a good showing at OTAs and training camp, can provide an intriguing spark on both offense and special teams. And that’s Britain Covey.

It has been too long since the Eagles could brag about their wide receiving group. The last few seasons have been difficult. Whether the failed draft picks or injuries to, or lackluster performances by, veteran wide receivers. Now, after the trade-up and drafting of DeVonta Smith plus Quez Watkins emergence last season and now the Zach Pascal signing and AJ Brown trade this offseason, it appears the Eagles will have a much-improved passing attack. 

Britain Covey would be icing on the top of the cake with his versatility and ability to be an all-purpose machine for the Eagles.

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