The Eagles made plenty of changes to their roster during the offseason and perhaps one of the more interesting additions was former Giants receiver Reuben Randle. The 25 year old signed a one-year deal with the Eagles following another disappointing season in New York and while there was a small amount of hype at the time, most people seem to have overlooked the signing of Randle. The question is, what kind of role will Reuben Randle play in Doug Pederson’s Offense?
When looking at how much responsibility should be placed on the shoulders of Reuben Randle, you have to look at his career to this point. He was drafted out of LSU by the Giants following a stellar senior year and was set to become the team’s third receiver in place of Mario Manningham who entered free-agency after the Super Bowl XLVI victory.
As a result, there wasn’t really a lot of pressure on Randle during his rookie year..but he still ended it with just 19 receptions. There were players ahead of him on the depth chart seeing a lot more action which didn’t help. Martellus Bennett and Domenik Hixon featured more prominently over Randle. In fact, Hixon had more receptions than Randle had targets..
2013 saw an increased role for Randle but it also highlighted some of his flaws. From the frustrated “ball-slam” against the Bears that would have gone down as a butt-fumble level play if the officials didn’t view it differently, to the career high 3 fumbles, Randle just couldn’t stay consistent as he caught just 52% of his passes for 611 yards.
There were two different Reuben Randle’s on display in 2013. The easily aggitated receiver who appeared to give up on plays, and the red-zone threat who enjoyed a 6 game stretch of scoring a touchdown in each.
Nobody was sure what to expect a year later, but with the departure of Hakeem Nicks and injury of Victor Cruz..the stage was set for a huge year. Sure, he set career highs in receiving yards and receptions..but the inconsistencies continued. Getting open isn’t one of Randles strong suits..and this was the year this became frustratingly apparent for Giants fans. Randle received for less than 50 yards in nine games in 2014 as he struggled to create separation as a lead receiver. This of course meant that a certain rookie by the name of Odell Beckham Jr was able to take full advantage of unsuspecting defenses and go on to have a year that Randle would have undoubtedly been envious of.
Again, there were two sides of Randle on show. One minute he was being benched twice in three games..(once for missing a team meeting) and the next he was ending his season in an explosive fashion, catching 12 passes for 290 yards and a single touchdown.
2015 became a summary of his NFL career to date. Another nine games of less than 50 yards receiving saw the Giants starter struggle yet again. Randle ended the season ranked 43rd in the NFL for receiving after catching 57 of his 90 targets for 797 yards..but a more telling sign of how he should be utilized lay in his YAC.
Many criticize the effort of Randle..and when you look at the YAC stat..it’s clear to see why. He’s excellent on comeback routes and curls and fantastic on corner routes..but when it comes to making catches in open space over the middle..he gets down quickly or makes headway for the sideline. He accumulated 194 yards after catch last season..an average of just 3.6 yards after the catch per reception. It’s not so much that Randle is bad as it is that he lacked the drive to push for extra yards under the shadow of Odell Beckham Jr.
So what does this mean for the Eagles? To understand where Randle fits on the roster, it’s important to see how the position looks now. It’s not yet known where Jordan Matthews will feature, with Pederson stating he looks more comfortable in the slot but is impressing on the outside. With Agholor and Givens appearing to be the deep threats for the Eagles, it would make sense for the birds to utilize the skill set of Randle..and it’s a skill set that Pederson is very familiar with.
During his time as Offensive Coordinator with the Chiefs, Pederson watched a former Eagle spread his wings even further, Jeremy Maclin. Interestingly, Maclin averaged just 3.8 YAC last season but had a contrasting year to Randle in every other aspect.
When it comes down to fundamentals however, the two are actually very similar. Obviously, Randle isn’t going to feature as prominently as Maclin did for the Chiefs..but it’s interesting to see that both have similar characteristics and YAC despite such different seasons.
Both are big body receivers who can get up and make a catch in traffic. No matter how you look at it, with the exception of Odell Beckham Jr, Randle was the most explosive receiver on the Giants roster. He could make difficult catches in traffic and in the air while having the ability shake off tackles on curl routes with ease.
Randle is on a one-year prove it deal..and under Pederson, he may do just that. Pederson has seen a guy very similar to Randle shine in an Offense similar to the one he plans on implementing (minus the character issues) and there is a perfect niche in the Offense for him.
Jordan Matthews: Number one receiver
Nelson Agholor: Number two receiver/ Deep threat
Chris Givens: Deep threat
Josh Huff: Situational, could become deep threat if he can develop
What they don’t have, is a steady pair of hands who can make the tough catches when needed. Randle can be that guy. Whether it’s coming across the slant or breaking on a curl route, Randle has all the right pieces to have the breakout season the Giants waited so patiently for and were never rewarded with.
He may not jump up the depth chart ahead of Givens or Agholor and he might not see the same amount of attention that Jordan Matthews is almost destined to receive, but 2016 will almost be like a rebirth for Reuben Randle. A second rookie season. A season in which he’s expected to be the team’s 2nd/3rd/4th receiver but without the pressure of playing for a reigning Super Bowl champion. A season where he can develop and emerge as the steady pair of hands the Eagles need..and at the age of 25, Randle still has plenty to offer.
In Pederson’s Offense that on unpredictability and a city that will let you hear it if you fall short of expectation, Randle may finally be in an environment where he can flourish under a Coach who has already witnessed Jeremy Maclin do the same.
Photo credit: Getty Images