Eagles Left With Plenty of Options in Slot Because of 'design of the Offense' - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Eagles Left With Plenty of Options in Slot Because of 'design of the Offense'

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Eagles Left With Plenty of Options in Slot Because of 'design of the Offense'
    CSNPhilly.com
    Eagles left with plenty of options in slot because of 'design of the offense'

    After sending Jordan Matthews to the Bills in a trade, the Eagles could take a committee approach at slot receiver in 2017.

    It's been widely assumed Nelson Agholor would step into that vacated slot role -- he took first-team reps there at practice on Saturday. The third-year wideout also had a strong offseason, and filled in during spring sessions while Matthews was out with knee tendinitis.

    "That's coach's decision as far as who's going to step up, but Nelson's done some great things," said Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. "Obviously, he can fly. He can roll in the slot and put some pressure on defenses."

    While Agholor will no doubt continue to see plenty of work in the slot, the job isn't necessarily going to be his exclusively moving forward.

    "We move so many guys around in that position," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. "It's just kind of by design of the offense."

    Matthews served as the Eagles' primary slot receiver since he was selected in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft, but lined up there less last season than in years past. That was in large part because Pederson was much more imaginative than his predecessor, Chip Kelly, mixing up personnel and formations with far greater frequency.

    Under Pederson, the Eagles have been more likely to deploy running backs and tight ends from the slot. Darren Sproles, Donnel Pumphrey, Zach Ertz and Trey Burton will all take a fair number of snaps in there.

    Agholor may be facing some competition in the receiver room as well. After a breakout performance in the preseason opener, Mack Hollins was also getting a look in the slot on Saturday.

    "We'll continue to develop him and work him in multiple spots," Pederson said. "One thing about Mack is he's a smart guy. He picks up the offense well and he understands coverage and leverage and things like that."

    Hollins seems like a receiver more in the mold of Matthews. Listed at 6-foot-4, 221 pounds, he's far bigger and stronger than most of the nickel cornerbacks who would be trying to cover him on the inside.

    For now, Hollins is continuing to work primarily on the outside, but his size is something the Eagles could try to take advantage of.

    "This game is a bunch of matchups," Hollins said. "So if my best matchup is inside against a smaller nickel, then that's where I'll be, and if it's outside versus a smaller corner, that's where I'll be."

    The Eagles also like the fact that Agholor brings a different skill set to the position than Matthews did. Matthews' size was an asset in the middle of the field, but he lacked explosion. Agholor has the potential to become the consistent deep threat down the seam that the offense has been lacking.

    "Without a doubt, they're different skill sets," Wentz said. "He's more of a burner, whereas J-Matt was more of that savvy possession guy underneath.

    "Obviously, Jordan made plenty of plays down the field as well, they just bring a different element down the field as well."

    A first-round draft pick in 2015, Agholor has been a massive disappointment through two seasons in the league, with 59 receptions for 648 yards and 3 touchdowns in 28 games. 

    For what it's worth, Agholor has appeared to make strides in his development while working from the slot this year. The 24-year-old looks comfortable, and it may very well be the role he is best suited to play in the NFL.

    Agholor played slot his junior season at USC, when he racked up 104 receptions for 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns.

    "Staying inside, you have to have a little bit more spatial awareness because there are bodies in there, a lot going on," Agholor said. "Your awareness and your understanding of zones has to be at a higher level. Outside, you kind of have a one-on-one even in some zones."

    Even last season, Matthews was still the primary slot, but shared the responsibility. After running 532 routes in the slot in 2015, he was down to 329 with Pederson at the helm, according to Pro Football Focus. Injuries also limited Matthews to 14 games, but that doesn't account for a difference of over 200 plays.

    No matter how the plan shakes out, Agholor is fine with divvying up the snaps.

    "We want to put defenses in a bind," Agholor said. "We want to find mismatches and move players around so that we keep them guessing."