Remember how Josh Huff would frustrate you? How he would drive you crazy? How you felt like he just wasn’t living up to his potential?
Huff understands. Because he was frustrating himself and driving himself crazy, too.
Huff, the former third-round pick who played for Chip Kelly at Oregon, enters Year 3 with the Eagles still trying to overcome that underachiever tag.
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There have been some explosive plays here and there. Just enough to make you think he could be a pretty good player if he could ever put everything together. But not enough to make you confident it was about to happen.
“It was definitely not what I wanted,” Huff said after practice Friday (see OTA observations). “But once it’s my time to show what I can do full-time, I’ll be more than ready.
“Obviously, the first two years here were far under my expectations, but I can’t do anything about that. I can just build on what I learned in the past and continue to move forward, and that’s what I’ve been doing.
“I know what I did in the past and I know what I want to do in the future and each day is a stepping stone in that direction.”
Huff, the 86th player taken in the 2014 draft, caught eight passes for 98 yards as a rookie along with a 107-yard kick return for a touchdown and then improved to 27 for 312 with three TDs last year.
The only wide receiver the Eagles have drafted in the first three rounds in the last 25 years who had fewer catches or yards is Billy McMullen, a third-round pick in 2003. He caught just four passes for 26 yards in his first two seasons.
Huff has enjoyed a good series of OTAs, but we all know it’s a long way from looking sharp in May to going out in the fall and helping the team win football games.
“I’m progressing,” he said. “Each day is another stepping stone for me, another step in the right direction. I have a great position coach (Greg Lewis) who demands nothing but perfection and that’s what I want from myself. I want perfection.
“I want to be as good as I can be, and he’s pushing each of us in the receiving room to be great, and that’s what we’re doing.
“As far as myself, I’m just seeing steady progress. That’s my goal each and every day. To come in and work on something different and I feel like I’m doing a great job of that.”
The Eagles need Huff. Badly. Other than Jordan Matthews, there isn’t a sure thing at wide receiver on the roster. Nelson Agholor has looked good in shirts and shorts, but he caught only 23 passes for 283 yards as a rookie. Newcomers Chris Givens and Rueben Randle are question marks. Riley Cooper is gone.
“Because of the recent success of young wide receivers, everybody’s now pressing the fast-forward button on production when it comes to young receivers,” Matthews said.
“But this is Josh’s third year and that’s usually the time when young receivers start coming into their own and figuring out the speed of the game and start becoming the player they want to be. I think this is right on time for him, we’re all pulling for him, we know how much he can help this team out.”
One thing all the Eagles’ offensive players have been doing is watching Chiefs film because head coach Doug Pederson spent the last three years as Andy Reid’s offensive coordinator in Kansas City.
When Matthews watches the Chiefs and sees hybrid running back-wide receiver De'Anthony Thomas, he sees a glimpse of what Huff can do.
“When you go and watch Kansas City’s film, you start saying what guys match up with guys here and you look at De'Anthony Thomas, some of the things he was able to do, instant flash, instant dynamic playmaker, just got to get the ball in his hands,” Matthews said.
“I think Josh is that same type of player. He played running back coming into college, he can play wide receiver outside, slot, great at kick returns, very dynamic guy. We need him. Really pulling for him to continue to develop.”
Huff surpassed 40 receiving yards only twice last year. He had a career-high 78 yards against the Saints and 52 yards against the Cards.
Nine out of 16 games he had 20 or fewer yards. Five times he had eight or fewer yards.
He’s running out of years. He’s no longer playing for the coach that drafted him, and if it doesn’t happen this year, Huff may not get another chance.
No matter how promising he looks at times.
“My expectations are even higher this year and each year they’re going to continue to grow,” he said. “Whether I meet those expectations or not, that’s just going to fuel my hunger for the next season.”