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Aaron Moorehead: Eagles wide receivers have 'something to prove'

The Eagles were not the only team to have a non-wide receiver lead the squad in receptions and yards in 2019. Four other teams – Baltimore, Kansas City, Oakland (now Las Vegas), and San Francisco – had a tight end atop both categories. Two other teams – Carolina and Jacksonville – had a running back come out on top in receptions.

The Eagles' struggles in 2019 at the wide receiver position have been well documented. Injuries and inexperience played a significant role. Alshon Jeffery, the leading wide receiver for the Eagles, finished fourth on the team in receptions and yards behind two tight ends and a rookie running back. Jeffery also missed the final four games of the regular season due to injury.

The three starting wide receivers in Week 1 – Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor – were all sidelined for the last quarter of the year. That provided Greg Ward a chance to break out. The former standout quarterback at the University of Houston toiled on the team's practice squad since 2017. His game-winning touchdown reception in Week 15 at Washington with just 26 seconds remaining kept the Eagles' playoff hopes alive. Ward's 28 catches and 254 yards led all Eagles wide receivers over the season's final six weeks.

Without the top wide receivers, quarterback Carson Wentz stepped up his game and threw seven touchdowns and no interceptions during the four-game win streak at the end of the regular season to capture the NFC East. Two of those wins – including the Washington game – featured comebacks in the fourth quarter/overtime.

The Eagles realized that Wentz needed better weapons around him. Three draft picks were used to bolster the youth and speed at the wide receiver position with first-round pick Jalen Reagor leading the way. The coaching had to improve, as well. Stories like Ward's are great, but the Eagles want to maximize other investments like the second-round pick used in 2019 on J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who battled through injuries to finish with 10 catches for 169 yards as a rookie.

That's why the Eagles hired former wide receiver Aaron Moorehead to oversee the position group. Moorehead looks to bring stability as he is the sixth wide receivers coach in the last six years for the Eagles. Moorehead played for five years in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts and was a member of the Super Bowl XLI Championship team. He and his father, Emery, are the first father-son duo to win a Super Bowl in NFL history. Following his playing career, Moorehead went into coaching at the college ranks for the past 11 seasons before getting his first NFL coaching gig with the Eagles this offseason.

"I know how I coach, and I know how to get through to people. I know how to motivate people," Moorehead said.

Moorehead's NFL resume and 6-foot-3 1/2 frame help immediately command respect from his players. However, his lack of experience as a coach at this level is not going to change the expectations he has for this group.

"I think that we have an expectation to be one of the top groups in the league and that's what we expect," Moorehead said. "This group is coming out with a little bit of a chip on its shoulder because of last year, and that's a good thing.

"At the end of the day, a little added extra motivation I think this day and age, you know with social media ... I think you can try to ignore it, but people hear what they say, and I think guys understand that we do have something to prove, and that's OK. There's nothing wrong with that and I enjoy the challenge and enjoy coaching a group that I think has something to prove. I think that's good."

Of those starting receivers from Week 1 of last season, Agholor is gone. Jeffery is on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Jackson is on the field after playing just three games due to an abdominal injury that required surgery. There will be opportunities for the rookies to get on the field. Right now, Moorehead is focused on teaching the concepts of the offensive playbook instead of specific positions. As for the top pick, Reagor, Moorehead has known him since he was a kid. Reagor's father, former Eagles defensive tackle Montae Reagor, played on that Colts' Super Bowl team with Moorehead.

"On the field, you see his explosion, you see his speed, you see his hands, and you see his workmanlike ability. He really does have a really good sense of a work ethic," Moorehead said of Reagor.

"He's a humble kid that understands it, but also has that swag of a big-time receiver, so really just have enjoyed being around him and continue to mentor and grow him as a young adult. He's 21 years old. He's just figuring this thing out, so excited for what he's done so far."

It hasn't been the ideal offseason to get established with a new coaching staff and players, but Moorehead will have his receivers ready for padded practices starting Monda. The Eagles are scheduled to play their regular-season opener one month from Thursday.

"I think we have a great group. I think we got a tough group and we got to continue to grow over the course of the next few weeks, but I do like the group we have," Moorehead said. "You've got some young guys that are going to step up and have to continue to get better as the year goes on and you've got some veterans that we need to keep healthy and get healthy, that are already going to take this group to the next level."

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