PHILADELPHIA − It’s easy to criticize Jalen Reagor because he hasn’t lived up to expectations as a first-round pick.
And certainly, fans have gotten on Reagor incessantly.
That was evident Thursday when Reagor was coming up the sideline, back to where the first-team offense was gathering upon the Eagles switching to the second-team offense. A fan yelled out to Reagor, who waved back. The fan then yelled out an expletive.
Reagor kept walking, putting his hands in a prayer position.
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Athletes have pride, just like anyone else, and Reagor’s struggles aren’t from a lack of effort.
It’s not Reagor’s fault that the Eagles picked him one spot before the Vikings took Justin Jefferson in the first round of the 2020 draft. Jefferson has since set an NFL record for receiving yards in his first two years, with 3,016. Reagor has 695 yards receiving in two years.
The Eagles have not given up on Reagor. Nor are they about to. That doesn’t happen with a first-round pick unless he has character issues, and Reagor does not.
The Eagles also need Reagor. They no longer expect him to produce like a No. 1 receiver because he has not shown that. But it is a long 17-game season, and injuries happen, and a championship-caliber team needs production throughout the roster.
Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said Reagor has shown up in shape, with a positive attitude and is trying to get better. Sirianni said he explained to Reagor what he can expect this season.
Reagor, who hasn’t spoken to the media since the week of Jan. 2, seems to have accepted that.
“He came in great shape, ready to go,” Sirianni said. “That’s a big part of it, being able to run. He plays a position that you’ve got to run all day … He’s just working to get better every day, and I see improvements. He’s making plays when there are opportunities.
“We talk to him a lot about, ‘Hey, you’re not going to get 11 chances a game like you did at TCU. But if you get three, you’ve got to take advantage of those three, and you can’t leave them on the field.'”
The diminished chances are becoming evident, too.
Reagor had a good day during one practice earlier in the week. He caught a deep ball from quarterback Jalen Hurts after getting behind two defensive backs. Reagor also had a sliding catch along the sideline as Hurts scrambled to his left.
“I think he’s growing. I think he’s working,” Hurts said after that practice. “He’s put his head down and he’s going to work. You see him making plays out there. So just a constant effort, a constant, conscious effort to listen, lock in and do what he needs to do. I think he’s doing it.”
It’s worth noting that Reagor has mostly been running with the second team through the first week of camp. That is to be expected after the Eagles traded for A.J. Brown on draft night, to go along with DeVonta Smith coming off a season in which he set the Eagles’ rookie record for receiving yards with 916.
There’s also Quez Watkins, taken in the 6th round in 2020, who seems to have surpassed Reagor on the depth chart, and possibly even Zach Pascal, whom the Eagles signed to a one-year deal as a free agent.
On Thursday, Reagor was with the first unit because Smith sat out with a groin injury and Greg Ward was out with a toe injury. Pascal was held out of team drills because this was his first practice after missing time with an illness.
But Reagor didn’t really have any opportunities to catch the ball. It’s hard to know if that was by design, or if he was well covered by cornerbacks Darius Slay and James Bradberry. Watkins also didn’t catch any passes Thursday as Hurts mostly threw towards Brown.
Reagor has had his struggles, too. He reacted on social media when a TV reporter posted on Twitter that Reagor dropped a pass during practice last Saturday and was getting outmuscled by defenders.
“Bro, y’all gotta stop this (expletive),” Reagor tweeted in response. Soon after, Reagor deleted the post.
Reagor has faced the criticism before, and handled it well.
Reagor met the media after dropping two potential game-winning passes late in the fourth quarter against the Giants last Nov. 28. Reagor didn’t make any excuses, saying, “Just two drops that I would say is very uncharacteristic. Just gotta go through the highs and lows, go to the next week, and make the plays.”
Reagor did make a great catch earlier in that game near the goal line. And of course, there were his two highlight-reel, one-handed catches in practice last summer.
All of which teased the potential that Reagor has with his strength, speed and talent.
It just hasn’t happened often enough. So the Eagles have lowered their expectations for Reagor heading into this season. Sirianni made that clear when he told Reagor that he won’t get the chances that he got at TCU.
But Reagor will still get chances. It’s up to him to take advantage.
∎ The Eagles are off Friday. They return to practice Saturday morning. Their only practice open to all fans is scheduled for Sunday at 7 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field. Tickets are $10, available through Ticketmaster. Proceeds will support the Eagles’ Autism Foundation.
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.