Step by step, game by game, you can see the difference in Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor. He's growing more confident in the offense and in the punt return game, and on Sunday in Green Bay, it all came together. In a span of just one quarter, everything the Eagles loved about Reagor in the 2020 NFL Draft was on display. First, he ran away from the defense to catch a perfect Jalen Hurts pass that gained 34 yards. Then he helped the team get to within one score of Green Bay with an explosive 73-yard punt return for a touchdown down the sidelines, showing power and the burst that difference-makers have.
Step by step. Game by game.
Reagor is coming.
"Kind of honing in on my technique that I worked on all week in practice and then carrying it into the game and using it and, as you guys (reporters) say, getting separation," Reagor said. "That's pretty much what I did – going through things in practice and working with Coach (Aaron) Moorehead, just applying those things to the game."
The big story this week has been the move to Hurts at quarterback, of course, but not to be lost is the way Reagor is building his rookie resume. He has battled some injuries this season – a shoulder injury in Training Camp and a thumb injury early in the regular season – that have stunted his growth. But Reagor has also caught 20 passes for 256 yards and a touchdown in seven games. The touchdown return was only the third punt return of his NFL career.
When it's all broken down, and with four games still to play in 2020's regular season, Reagor has made strides noticeable to all. He has missed reps because of the injuries and, obviously, he has missed game action and the chance to work his way more deeply into the offense. Having this bizarro-world rookie season with no Organized Team Activities and no real social bonding with his teammates has been another wrench in his best-laid plans, but the relentlessly optimistic Reagor is moving on with confidence.
"It is a setback because it's also reps that you lose. I missed five games and that's a lot of reps considering how much I play now," he said. "Just imagine if I played those five games – all those reps, all those live reps and looks … It does set you back, but I can't make excuses. I just have to pick up where I left off."
Reagor's focus is "on what I'm here to do. I'm just here in all my power to make the quarterback right" as he answered question after question about his perspective of the quarterback change from Carson Wentz to Hurts. As the Eagles increase the workload of their 2020 Rookie Class – Hurts is starting, Reagor is starting, and fourth-round draft pick Jack Driscoll is set for his third start at right tackle – the first pick, Reagor, is just now shedding the shackles of his injury setbacks to show what he can really do.
What made the punt return so special was that Reagor dropped the punt and picked it up – shades of DeSean Jackson, circa 2010 – and then had a cadre of great blocks to spring him free. A dynamic punt returner in college at TCU, Reagor has shared the duties with Greg Ward and will continue to do so as both players also see a lot of time in the offense. Special Teams Coordinator Dave Fipp wants to keep both players fresh.
"I've got a lot of confidence in him. I mean I still see us using a combination of both Greg Ward and Jalen. I think Jalen's done a great job. Obviously, he's got to continue to work on catching the football. He's put two on the ground now this season for us, so he's got to continue to work on that, there's no question about that," Fipp said. "You know he was out for five weeks there. During that five weeks he had that thumb injury, so he wasn't able to catch balls. Wasn't able to catch a pass much less a punt during those five weeks and then we brought him back in and we got him going.
"Then when he came back, he was also playing, I think the last five weeks that we've been playing, or he's been playing again, I think he's played 77 percent of the offensive snaps or something like that. So, he's definitely got a lot on his plate, then obviously the punt return role. So I think we'll just try to manage him the best we can and keep trying to take advantage of his skill set and his ability to make big plays for us. At the same time, just manage his load, and I still see Greg being a part of that and going back there and helping us. He's done a great job making a lot of really good decisions and getting positive yards for us also. So, I feel good about both those guys being a part of this thing and helping each other out."
Step by step ...
"I just want to keep working and improving and making plays," Reagor said. "That's what I'm here to do."