Before the season ended and frankly before it even started, every Eagles analyst and fan knew that they needed to upgrade the offensive line. Well, the signing of guard Brandon Brooks and an emphasis on the lineman in the draft should accomplish that mission. Then it was onto the secondary. Howie Roseman jumped on that quickly, signing Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks, as well as extending Nolan Carroll.
Neither of those position groups are perfect nor the most impressive on the team, but they are sufficient enough for the Eagles to focus elsewhere. But where? The Quarterbacks and the Running Backs could probably use an upgrade, but nothing too urgent. The Linebackers, Tight-Ends, Defensive Line groups are talented and somewhat deep. That leaves us with the wide receivers.
There is definitely talent in that room. Jordan Matthews is a tough guy to bet against. His toughness combined with this relentless work ethic has made him a fan favorite in this town. But I have had some reservations on whether or not he can transition to the outside and have the same impact as he did in his two seasons so far. He excelled in the slot for Chip Kelly, mainly because he was wide open so often. He rarely had to make plays on the ball, and when he did, it usually ended up on the ground.
His drops really proved detrimental to the Eagles last year, and it is only going to get harder on the outside. The main problem is that he is not amazingly fast. That does not necessarily mean that you cannot be successful on the outside, just look at DeAndre Hopkins and Dez Bryant. It is tough however to watch those two guys with similar size and speed to Matthews, and envision Jordan making those necessary jump ball grabs. He just doesn’t have the same in-air ability that can make up for the lack of speed..at least on the surface. He is a nice player and his ceiling is sky-high, but I just cannot give him the label of a number 1 outside receiver just yet and it seems unfair to put even more pressure on such a promising talent by labelling him as such.
Nelson Agholor probably has the most potential in the group, but his terribly underwhelming rookie campaign has casted some doubt to whether he could even come close to his ceiling. It may have been that he was out of position with Kelly. He has some speed, probably more than Matthews, but really not enough to be the feature outside receiver that some expected when he was drafted in the first round. That doesn’t mean that he can’t play inside. When I watched him at USC, it was easy to see some Randall Cobb in his game. He has the twitchy quickness and strong hands that you want to see in an NFL slot receiver. Now that Matthews is shifting outside, the slot should be open, and Agholor certainly has the best resume to excel in that spot. Hopefully a switch to the slot will jumpstart his career because if his sophomore season is similar to his rookie year, the Eagles could be in a heap of trouble at the wide receiver position.
Josh Huff and Rueben Randle are guys that have some nice tools but have not been able to quite put it all together yet. They should be the two guys jousting for the outside spot across from Matthews. Huff is a “Chip Kelly guy” and it is telling that he remains on the roster after the purge of other players that Kelly favored. Perhaps Roseman still has some hope in the third year receiver. He is a tough receiver that has some moves with the ball in his hands but he has had two straight poor seasons for the Eagles and this might be his last chance to prove his 3rd round worth.
Randle on the other hand, has everything you want in a receiver. He has good speed, he is big at 6’2” 210 lbs, and he has made some plays that had some people believe that he could be a dynamic receiver across from Odell Beckham Jr. Unfortunately for him (fortunately for the Eagles), he did not excel as hoped with the Giants. Maybe a change of scenery will help him blossom and override the concerns over his work ethic. These concerns are especially when you are in the same room as an unquestioned hard worker like Odell Beckham Jr.
That second wide receiver job is up in the air, but I’m not too confident that either player will take that job and run with it. Coupling that with the fact that Matthews is not a bona fide number one receiver should worry the Eagles front office.
Lastly, Chris Givens gives the Eagles a quality speed threat on the outside, but he is certainly not Desean Jackson. He could come in at times and sneak past the Defense for a long catch, but in the end, he isn’t a player like Jackson who will consistently take the top off of the Defense. He is a nice fourth or fifth receiver, and that is probably about it.
Despite all of the investment in receivers in the early rounds of the past few drafts, this group is nowhere near great. Second rounder Jordan Matthews has had two solid seasons to start his career but moving him outside could have a negative effect on his development. Nothing that I have seen from Matthews makes me believe that he will be a stud outside receiver. Last year’s first rounder, Nelson Agholor, should move inside this year but after a pretty bad rookie year, it is tough to be overly confident in the transition. Huff, Randle, and Givens are solid depth receivers but they are probably nothing more than that.
There is undoubtedly talent in that position, but whether it can and will come together, is up in the air, meaning that maybe Howie should be looking for an upgrade in this upcoming draft, despite the apparent focus on other areas.