On Justin Jefferson, Jalen Reagor, and Why More Than One Thing Can Be True

One of the things we struggle with in Philadelphia is the idea that more than one thing can be true.

It sounds simple, but we as sports fans tend to boil an argument down to the idea that one person is right and one person is wrong. There’s never middle ground at all.

Rarely is it that easy, but we tried it anyway with Brandon Graham and Earl Thomas for years in an exercise that ultimately proved to be inconsequential.

Maybe younger Eagles supporters don’t remember this vividly, but back in 2010, the fan base REALLY wanted Earl Thomas in the draft. Instead, the Birds went for Graham, and the lingering criticism was that the front office and coaching staff was obsessed with these defensive ends and undersized OLB/hybrid pass rushers who could get to the quarterback. Thomas, meantime, was the second safety off the board (after the fantastic Eric Berry), and fit a position of need considering that the Birds rolled out a starting unit of Quintin Mikell and Sean Jones in the season following Brian Dawkins’ departure. Eagles fans felt like the combo of Trent Cole and Juqua Parker was adequate at defensive end and wanted their safety of the future but instead had to settle for Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen.

Thomas went on to earn Pro Bowl nods in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, capped off with a Super Bowl win. Graham, meantime, compiled just 11.5 sacks in his first four seasons, which were limited due to an ACL tear suffered in a game against the Cowboys.

Graham was a late bloomer, and ultimately the arguments were rendered null and void when he went out and stripped Tom Brady to help secure the first Super Bowl in franchise history. Ironically, for all of the bitching about Thomas and Graham over the years, they both ended up being key players on Super Bowl-winning squads. It just took Graham longer to get there.

I’m not sure if you feel the same way, but the current Justin Jefferson and Jalen Reagor situation is giving me intense Thomas and Graham vibes in 2020. Bad vibes, too, like the recurring headaches that didn’t go away until BG really found his rhythm and stride in 2015.

Monday night we watched the Vikings’ rookie receiver go for 135 yards on eight receptions to lead his team. He’s now up to 762 yards and three touchdowns through just nine games and will easily eclipse the 1,000 yard mark in his debut season. That’s making some people who laughed off Jefferson as nothing but a slot receiver on a great LSU team look silly.

So this is where the “more than one thing can be true” explainer comes into play:

  1. the Eagles obviously missed on Jefferson at #21 overall
  2. the Eagles did not necessarily miss on Jalen Reagor

 

We know that Jefferson is a stud, but we can’t say the Eagles “missed” on Reagor, because we don’t know what he is yet. It’s N/A because he’s been injured and has a stinky quarterback and we just don’t have enough of a sample size to make any kind of realistic judgment at this nascent point in his career.

Therefore, Justin Jefferson is Earl Thomas and Jalen Reagor is Brandon Graham, one would hope. Reagor has shown some flashes this season, the same way Graham did pre-injury when he was still new to the NFL. It’s quite conceivable that Reagor and Jefferson both go on to become solid and reliable contributors in the future, which makes determining draft “winners and losers” an arguably feckless exercise as of publication of this article on November 17th, 2020.

Did the Eagles miss on Jalen Reagor? No, not necessarily.

Did they get it wrong by passing on Jefferson? Yes, that would appear to be the case.

Therefore, more than one thing can true.

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