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DeVante Parker explains what he brings to Eagles' receiver room

DeVante Parker explains what he brings to Eagles' receiver room originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

DeVante Parker has never met A.J. Brown or DeVonta Smith.

But the Eagles’ new veteran receiver is looking forward to working with them in 2024.

“I just see very hard workers,” Parker said on Monday. “That’s what I want to do too. Be a hard worker and we can all learn from one another. Teach me something and I’ll teach them something. That’s what it’s all about.”

The Eagles agreed to terms with Parker on a one-year deal for the 2023 season and, because of offset language in his contract with the Patriots, are on the hook for just the veteran minimum. This was a low-risk move for the Eagles to bring in the 31-year-old former first round pick.

But Parker thinks he can help the Eagles in 2024 and he pointed at one of his skills in particular: Contested catches.

A pessimist might point out that this late into his career, Parker isn’t getting a ton of separation from opposing defensive backs and that’s not great. But an optimist might say that Parker’s ability to win 50-50 balls is something that has stood out throughout his nine-year career.

And even at 30 years old, Parker (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) was able to haul in 10 contested catches in 2023, according to ProFootballFocus. And his contested catch rate was higher than that of his new star teammates Brown and Smith:

A.J. Brown: 14 contested catches out of 31 targets (45.2%)

DeVonta Smith: 11 contested catches out of 28 targets (39.3%)

DeVante Parker: 10 contested catches out of 19 targets (52.6%)

In his nine-year NFL career, Parker has 95 contested catches out of 184 contested catch targets (51.6) and during his prime in 2019 and 2020, Parker caught 43 contested balls in 30 games.

What makes him so good at bringing them down?

“Just being able to find where the ball is,” Parker explained. “Usually, DBs don’t really have that good of coordination. Just have to do a good job timing my jump, making sure the timing is right, stuff like that.”

Because of all this, it shouldn’t be surprising to hear what stands out most for Parker when he watches Jalen Hurts play.

“His ball placement,” Parker said. “I’ve been saying that he puts the ball where it needs to be and wherever the receiver can go up and get it.”

Of course, before Hurts trusts Parker enough to throw up the football to him, the two will have to learn how to play together. Hurts has already welcomed Parker since the signing and the two will get to work together starting in OTAs in a couple months.

While Parker said he’ll play wherever the Eagles want him to, it’s worth noting that he has primarily been an outside receiver during his NFL career. So if he does end up being the No. 3 receiver on this team, either that needs to change or we’ll be seeing more of either Brown and/or Smith in the slot in 2024 when the team uses 11 personnel.

It’s unclear if the Eagles are going to keep adding skill position players. If they do, then there’s a chance Parker could be WR4 on this roster. But there’s also a chance he could be WR3, which would be a significant role a season after Quez Watkins, Julio Jones and Olamide Zaccheaus all split that responsibility.

In 2023, Parker started 13 games for the Patriots and had 33 catches for 394 yards and didn’t score a single touchdown. The No. 14 overall pick out of Louisville in 2015 hasn’t lived up to that draft status aside from a 72-catch, 1,202-yard season with the Dolphins back in 2019.

You might remember one of his performances that year. In fact, it’s still the best game of his lengthy career. Parker had 7 catches for 159 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Eagles in a 37-31 Dolphins win at Hard Rock Stadium on Dec. 1, 2019. The Eagles could not defend Parker and Ryan Fitzpatrick kept hitting him.

“I remember a lot,” Parker said of that game in 2019. “It first started off, I remember I was making a lot of crucial catches that we needed for the team. I just feel like I can do that here. Whatever I can do to help the team out, that’s what I want to do.”

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