“I don’t like the word forget. I think you want him to learn from week one right, and continue to grow.”
That was Eagles wide receivers coach, Aaron Moorehead’s response to a question about John Hightower’s week one performance and how Moorehead would get Hightower to forget and move forward.
“You gotta take the good with that and you gotta move on, that’s every week. I’ve been telling that to the guys since I got here. The weeks they tend to blend together. You gotta take the good and you gotta learn from it. You gotta take the bad and you gotta learn from it. You gotta progress each week, you ought to be getting better each week,” Moorehead continued.
For much of Doug Pederson’s tenure as Eagles head coach, the wide receiver coaching job has been a bit of a revolving door.
There was Greg Lewis in 2016.
Under Lewis the wide receivers under-performed. Six receivers — Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Bryce Treggs, Paul Turner, and Josh Huff— combined for 170 catches, 1,839 yards (24th worst in the league), and 8 touchdowns. The unit combined for 10.8 yards per catch.
Lewis was unable to get production out of the room and he was let go.
There was Mike Groh in 2017.
Groh, by far got the most production out of his unit. Of course, it was elevated by the arrival of Alshon Jeffery who caught 57 of 120 targets for 789 yards and 9 touchdowns. But, Groh’s biggest accomplishment by far came in the form of unlocking Nelson Agholor. Before Groh, Agholor had meddled between draft bust and underachiever. Under Groh, Agholor flourished. Catching 62 passes for 768 yards and 8 touchdowns.
The Eagles then promoted Groh to offensive coordinator.
The Eagles hired Gunter Brewer in his place for the 2018 season.
Under Brewer, according to Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the receivers had problems lining up and there were issues with substitutions as well. Brewer never really had a command of the room. There was the Golden Tate trade mid-season that resulted in ultimately nothing because the coaching staff couldn’t integrate Tate into the offense. Overall, Brewer never really found his footing as an NFL coach.
Then there was Carson Welch in 2019.
By far Welch’s biggest blunder was the lack of production out of 2nd round pick, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Overall his unit ranked 12th in drops, 16th in yards and 30th in yards per catch. Of course injuries to DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery may have played a role in the lack of production and detractors may look at the performances of players like Greg Ward, Deontay Burnett and Robert Davis to show what Welch can do. However, the numbers show that the unit underperformed under Welch and the Eagles let him go.
Enter Aaron Moorehead.
Moorehead was hired this past offseason. This season, the job he’s done cannot be understated. One of the main things that Moorhead excels at is his ability as a teacher and developer of talent at the position.
Look no further than the development of John Hightower through 7 weeks of the season. Hightower is a 5th round rookie who has been forced into action due to injuries elsewhere within the position group. And he’s produced, leading the league in average targeted air yards and he is the first Eagles player in 76 years with a 50 yard catch in consecutive games.
Of course, he’s had his struggles like every rookie does, however, it’s the ability to be able to rebound and as Moorehead states, “Learning from it, moving on and not making the same mistakes,” that Hightower has displayed that separates him.
Under Moorehead, Hightower has displayed an astute level of football IQ. He’s been able to get open and display an acute understanding of defensive coverages by finding soft spots within different defensive coverages.
I think the main thing that separates Moorehead from his predecessors is his veteran leadership as both a former player and coach.
Moorehead played 4 years in the NFL and has coached for over 10 years. The 6’3 200 pound Moorhead commands respect and excellence out of his unit.
“He’s never going to take anything less than maximum effort”, Cardinals receiver, Christian Kirk said on Moorhead, who coached Kirk from 2015-2017.
By far, Moorehead’s biggest achievement has been the development and play of Travis Fulgham. In all the hype around Fulgham’s play, Moorehead’s role in this has almost gone unmentioned.
By now, everyone knows the story of Travis Fulgham. He was a 6th round pick in 2019, cut 3 times (once by the Eagles) and now he’s flourishing. However, something that hasn’t been looked into as much, is how little amount of NFL football Fulgham had played before the breakout performances he’s displayed this season.
Fulgham had appeared in just 3 games and played just 6% of offensive snaps in the NFL before coming to the Eagles. For Fulgham to be able to display the level of body control, route running, understanding of leverage and his ability to be moved around the formation (Z, X, or in the slot) and still produce, is a testament to the level of coaching he’s received.
Even Jalen Reagor, albeit in limited fashion, showed the ability to get open downfield and line up at different spots along the offensive formation and be effective.
To an extent, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has even looked better under Moorehead. Arcega-Whiteside has looked more confident and has improved as a blocker with Moorehead leading the room. Greg Ward’s play out of the slot has improved as well. Ward has displayed sure handedness in the passing game and he, like Hightower, has also been able to find soft spots in coverage and get open.
Overall, the thing that makes Moorehead the Eagles biggest addition on the offensive side of the ball is his ability to teach, prepare and develop talent. In previous years there have been wideouts such as Shelton Gibson, Dorial Green-Beckham, and Nelson Agholor who haven’t produced at the levels they were capable of or didn’t produce at all. Under Moorehead, that appears to be changing.