Eagles' Plethora of Wide Receivers Sets Up 'great' Competition to Make Roster - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Eagles' Plethora of Wide Receivers Sets Up 'great' Competition to Make Roster

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    Eagles' Plethora of Wide Receivers Sets Up 'great' Competition to Make Roster
    CSNPhilly.com
    Eagles' plethora of wide receivers sets up 'great' competition to make roster

    The math is pretty interesting.

    Five wide receivers who played last year are still on the roster. Two veteran free agents added. Two draft picks added. Four others acquired as street free agents.

    Thirteen wide receivers on the roster. Five will survive. Maybe six.

    The Eagles promised they would upgrade the wide receiver position, and it sure seems like they have.

    "We're trying to build competition," executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said. "That's going to make everyone better."

    The bar is not very high.

    The Eagles last year had perhaps the worst group of wide receivers in franchise history and arguably one of the worst in NFL history.

    All the wideouts combined finished with just seven catches for 30 or more yards, only two of them for touchdowns.

    The Eagles were the only team in the NFL without a single wide receiver over 12.5 yards per catch.

    Enter free agents Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith and draft picks Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson.

    A lot of bodies. Increased competition. More talent. It'll be fascinating to see how it all shakes out.

    "We're not looking at numbers," Roseman said. "We're not worried about what's going to happen in August. A lot is going to happen between now and August. The best situation we could have is have a lot of good players at a particular position."

    Out of the whole group, Jeffery is the only lock. Jordan Matthews has been unspectacular but steady but is due to become a free agent after the 2017 season, so it's not inconceivable the Eagles could trade him.

    Nelson Agholor, the 2015 first-round pick, could be expendable, although he would count about $2 million more against the cap if the Eagles release him ($4.684 million) as opposed to keeping him ($2.557 million).

    Dorial Green-Beckham, a second-round pick of the Titans just two years ago, failed to produce last year, and it's hard to imagine the Eagles finding him a roster spot.

    Even without DGB, the once-thin wideout depth chart now includes Matthews, Jeffery, Agholor, Smith, Hollins and Gibson.

    That's six. And most teams don't keep six.

    Pederson said it will all sort itself out at training camp.

    "Really the most important thing for me is I want guys that love football, No. 1," head coach Doug Pederson said. "Guys who want to come in here and compete and earn a spot and earn that jersey on Sundays.

    "You know, when these two guys (Hollins and Gibson) were sitting right there for us, we all kind of got excited and just looking forward to working with them, getting them here in the building here in a couple weeks, get them in that first rookie camp and expose them to our offense and then see what they can do from there.

    "This is going to be a different set of challenges for each one of them, competing now against NFL-caliber corners and safeties, so getting them in here and getting them to work is something that we're looking forward to here in a couple days."

    This is only the fourth time since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 that the Eagles have taken two wide receivers in the first five rounds of a draft.

    In 1990, they took three - Mike Bellamy, Fred Barnett and Calvin Williams. In 2000, they selected Todd Pinkston and Gari Scott. And just three years ago they took Matthews and Josh Huff.

    In Hollins, the Eagles got a receiver who led all of Division I with 24.8 yards per catch as a junior and averaged over 20 yards per catch for his career.

    He was considered one of the finest special teamers available in the draft, but Roseman said Hollins is here to be a wide receiver first.

    "He's 6-foot-4, he can run, a physical receiver, can go up and get the football," Roseman said. "For us, it was the receiving ability first. You're talking about a guy who's got tremendous size and tremendous speed. We feel like if he didn't have the collarbone (injury), he goes two rounds before that.

    "Tremendous upside as a receiver, and he's got the intelligence and work ethic to work on whatever his deficiencies are. In the meantime, he has a role to fill (on special teams) and you can get him on the field on the 46-man roster.

    "But we're not looking to draft special teams players in the fourth round. We're looking at a guy like that who's got the ability to be an eventual starter."

    Gibson is another speedy wideout and averaged 22.1 yards per catch at West Virginia, with 17 touchdowns.

    In fact, Gibson and Hollins ranked No. 2 and No. 5 in Division I over the past three years in yards-per-catch:

    23.1 … Jalen Robinette [Air Force]
    22.6 … Shelton Gibson [West Virginia]
    22.0 … Chris Moore [Cincinnati]
    20.9 … Breshard Perriman [Central Florida]
    20.6 … Mack Hollins [North Carolina]

    "Shelton Gibson is a guy who … can take the top off," Roseman said. "You can see he gets separation. He can get vertical, and for us, he was the best player on the board."

    Matthews (67-872), Jeremy Maclin (56-773) and DeSean Jackson (62-912) all put up solid numbers as rookies, but Hollins and Gibson are Day 2 picks, and Pederson said the transition to the NFL for them could be a challenging one.

    "You know, most receivers coming out of college don't have an extensive route tree like we will have, and so there's a learning curve there," he said.

    "But both these guys are sharp guys. You see it on tape when you get a chance to visit with them. They understand offense. They understand coverage. They are going to be a little bit of a work in progress."

    Last year, the Eagles finished the season with Matthews, Agholor, Bryce Treggs, Green-Beckham and Paul Turner on the roster.

    The lack of talent at wideout really hampered rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, who nonetheless enjoyed a promising season.

    With an upgraded group of wide receivers, Wentz should have more opportunities to shine. 

    "I think it's great," Pederson said. "I stood up here last year and said 'competition at every position.'

    "I'm excited to see these guys work. I'm excited to see who's going to rise to the top and who's going to be there at the end. It's just going to make us better."