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Eagles WR Jalen Reagor stiff-arms comparison to Vikings’ Justin Jefferson

PHILADELPHIA — The pro careers of Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor and Minnesota Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson became immediately intertwined when the Eagles cut against the grain to select Reagor 21st overall in April’s NFL draft instead of going with the consensus best receiver available in Jefferson, who was scooped up one pick later by Minnesota.

The players have no control over where they’re selected, of course, but that hasn’t stopped the flood of commentary and questions from reaching Reagor’s doorstep amid the contrasting start to their careers. Jefferson ranks seventh in the NFL in receiving yards (762) and fourth in yards per catch (18.1). His four 100-yard receiving games this season is tied with Randy Moss for the most by a rookie in Vikings history with seven games remaining.

Reagor has been limited to four games because of injury and has 12 catches for 159 yards (13.3 average) with a touchdown.

“That’s the only person that people bring up,” Reagor said of Jefferson. “It is what it is. He hasn’t had any injuries. I have. I can’t watch another man’s journey. I’ve just got to be ready to conquer mine when the time comes. But what’s life without scars?”

Reagor was a standout this summer, showing off the elite physical skills and speed that made him a triple threat at TCU as a receiver, rusher and returner before he suffered a small shoulder tear on the final day of training camp. He returned earlier than anticipated and played in the Eagles’ first two games, only to suffer an ulnar collateral ligament tear in his thumb that cost him five weeks. He came back in Week 8 against the Dallas Cowboys and scored his first touchdown in the NFL, but continues to play catchup.

“We’re throwing a bunch at him, and he’s handled it really well,” coach Doug Pederson said. “But just missing those in-game snaps, those practice snaps, working the timing out with Carson [Wentz], that’s a big deal and that’s probably the biggest thing that he’s missed and probably we missed as an offense in his absence.”

The Eagles’ usage of Reagor has been questionable. While he is a decent deep threat, Reagor’s game is largely about getting the ball in space and winning one-on-one matchups. Yet there hasn’t been a ton of that. He ranks fourth in the NFL in air yards per target (15.24), per ESPN Stats & Information research, and has been targeted within five yards of the line of scrimmage only eight times, resulting in six catches for 43 yards (36 yards after the catch) and a touchdown. Despite his success as a runner in college (35 rushes for 324 yards and two TDs), he has only one rush on the stat sheet so far with Philadelphia, and that was actually a pass from Wentz behind the line of scrimmage.

The playcalling creativity hasn’t been there, nor has chemistry with Wentz.

“Whether he’s making a lot of plays or even when he was out for a couple weeks, his confidence and his energy and excitement level has always been the same,” Wentz said. “So just continuing to develop that and work with him [on] certain routes, just details of plays and routes and those sorts of things, I think has been really good — lots of good healthy conversation, and that’s why I’m excited for the second half of the season for us to keep building that chemistry and keep showing it on Sundays.”

Reagor recently deleted his Twitter account, a sign he is intent on focusing on his craft and blocking out the noise. Still, it takes just a quick search to find there are 14 drafted rookies ahead of him in receiving yards in 2020, with Jefferson sitting in the top spot.

Those stats might be used as fuel, as could the early skepticism about the Eagles’ decision to draft him given the (very) early returns, but Reagor remains secure in his abilities and his future.

“I hope those guys keep shining. I know most of them. I wish the best to them. I want them to keep balling. Like [Denver’s Jerry] Jeudy and those guys, I text those guys after every game we play,” he said. “Confidence is [in] me, regardless if I have a 1,000-yard rookie season or I have a 500-yard season. I can control what I can control. I’m going to forever be confident.”

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