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It will take more than a “Receivers Whisperer” to shape up Eagles wideouts…

More loyal Bored members who also deserve mention for hanging in there with the EYE’s temporary mess of a Facebook comments section: PPW, Don Pardo, Hopper, Spiffo, GSXR, JCC and England’s Kent Phil, who asked me to relay his best wishes to all for a prosperous New Year. Phil’s been struggling to log into the Comments like the rest of us, but wanted his fellows to know he’s still watching from across the pond.

Funny how it’s usually an assistant coach who gets the sack because of his players’ failure to perform up to par. The Eagles fired their wide receivers coach Greg Lewis on Monday and are looking to add a coach with more experience to work with a young receiving corps. Oh sure, blame Greg!

Tommy Lawlor at Igglesblitz theorizes that Lewis was too soft on his troops, too affable, too willing to forgive their sins of omission and commission. I guess that’s easy to say in hindsight—but how much yelling and screaming would have been needed to make a dropped pass stick to a receiver’s hands?

Lewis took the approach of positive reinforcement. Applaud your guy when he makes a good play, encourage your guy when he makes a mistake—“Get the next one!”

I guess we ran out of “next ones”….

Now the substantial rumor going around the NFL is the Eagles have their eye on Sanjay Lal for their open wide receivers coach position, according to ESPN’s Adam Caplan. Lal, age 47, is currently the wide receivers coach for the Buffalo Bills,  and has been Buffalo’s receivers coach since 2015. He held the same position for the Oakland Raiders (2009-11) and New York Jets (2012-14). He is credited with helping to develop Sammy Watkins, Eric Decker and Darrius Heyward-Bey, among others. A former receiver for Cal and the University of Washington, Lal began coaching on the collegiate level in 2003 and broke into the pro ranks with the Raiders in 2007.

According to ESPN Bills reporter Mike Rodak, “Lal is highly regarded around the Bills’ locker room; Sammy Watkins, in particular, has spoken about the effect that Lal has made on his game.”

If Sanjay Lal is indeed the “Receivers’ Whisperer” who could mold reliable pass-catchers and route-runners out of the junkpile of inconsistency we saw from Eagles wideouts in 2016, don’t get your hopes up just yet— he’s still under contract to the Buffalo Bills, and the Eagles would need written permission from the Bills to talk to him.

One reason the Eagles may covet Sanjay Lal is they are looking at fresh clay to model for the immediate future. For example, Emily Kaplan of MMQB has the Eagles selecting Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams in the first round of the 2017 draft:

“No. 14 Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota): Mike Williams, WR, Clemson From the wideout factory that has produced DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant, this might be the Tigers’ most polished wide receiver yet. The Eagles won’t have any hesitations snatching up a star player to fill their biggest need. Carson Wentz, meet your new best friend — who will rarely drop your passes.”

If only it were that simple a solution—hire new receivers coach, draft future Hall-of-Famer at wideout in the 1st Round.

It almost never works out like that. Maybe the model the Eagles should be looking at is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ record of finding and drafting game-breaking talent at WR in the mid-to-late rounds of the Draft.

It all still boils down to those isolated moments in a game where your player must get to an open spot, turn, locate and secure the pigskin in his hands. Good coaching or high draft stock has nothing to do with a player’s reaction in those moments. It’s either in you or it isn’t.

Outside of Jordan Matthews (73 catches, 804 yards, 3 TDs), no Eagles wideout finished in the top-100 in receiving yards. The outside tandem of Dorial Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor combined for just 757 yards and four TDs. Even Matthews had his moments of key drops and imprecise routes. Agholor, Green-Beckham and Matthews all ranked in the top 50 in drop percentage, per ESPN Stats & Info. Agholor, the former first-round pick out of USC, had the third-worst drop rate in the NFL (9.1 percent) with six drops on 66 targets—and counting only 6 drops against him was a charitable stat. Some of the worst mistakes by the group were the passes that whizzed by their helmets on plays where they gave up on their routes.

Maybe a whole offseason of workouts with their QB Carson Wentz could improve the timing and communication among the WR group. It wouldn’t address the drops issue, though.

All the coach whispers in the world still can’t catch a football for you. All the natural talent in the world doesn’t get you to the right spot at the right time to make a key catch. I think what our guys learned last season is it’s not as easy a job as they thought it would be at this level. Individual work at their craft is required beyond any previous level of preparation, and that means offseason dedication to training and self-deprivation if necessary becoming the difference between lousy and elite. I have a picture of old training films from Jerry Rice and Raymond Berry in my head to illustrate the point.

 

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