When the Eagles traded away Dennis Kelly to the Titans for Dorial Green-Beckham ahead of the 2016 season, fans were beyond excited. The former second round pick showed plenty of promise in his rookie season, but character issues saw him slide out of favor with the Titans. For a 6’5 receiver who caught 4 touchdowns and averaged over 17 yards per reception in 2015, a backup offensive lineman seemed like a cheap price to pay..and four games into the season, we’re finally beginning to see just how explosive he can be.
It’s been a process for Green-Beckham. Learning a new Offense in such a short space of time stunted his progress and integration through the first three games. His snaps increased week-by-week, and his receiving yards followed suit. But an early Bye-week gave the 23-year old a chance to get down the rest of the playbook and be ready to be utilized much more in week 5..and that’s exactly what happened.
DGB may ended with 43 yards receiving on 4 targets, his most single game receiving yards of the season so far went hand in hand with an average of 14.3 yards per reception. The numbers may not be staggeringly impressive, but if you compare them next to the only other two Eagles receivers to surpass 100 receiving yards this season, the efficiency begins to show.
Green-Beckham has caught a higher percentile of his passes and averages more yards after the catch has been made than both Agholor and Matthews. He has been targeted less and this discredits the drops revoked due to penalties for Agholor and DGB..but it’s encouraging to see the rise of Green-Beckham. It’s even more encouraging when you look at just how many ways he was utilized against the Lions and how dangerous he became.
This is the most “common” DGB route, but one he runs perfectly. For someone who stands at 6’5 and weighs 237 pounds, his ability to change direction as quickly as he does is beyond impressive. Beckham leaves Nevin Lawson around 3 yards ahead of him on the deep curl and is in prime position for a big gain. Wentz threw to the other side of the field and completed the pass, but the window of opportunity appeared much smaller.
These are the sorts of routes DGB has ran consistently through his first four games as an Eagle, purely due to playbook knowledge. He was eased in against the Lions but again on a similar route was able to keep distance between himself and a smaller Nevin Lawson. The route was also much smoother than that of Agholor’s, who brushed past his corner before creating an opportunity. Green-Beckham was able to begin the transition smoothly then abruptly cut inside toward the end of the route with quick footwork, giving him an advantage.
The former Oklahoma receiver made a great cut to get inside at the line of scrimmage, but had a ball been thrown his way would have likely drawn a PI call. DGB’s frame means its much tougher to physically impose him so in order to do so, it becomes a case of clinging on for dear life and hoping it doesn’t become a 50-50 ball. DGB maintained momentum and kept his head up..which is difficult to do when there’s someone pulling you back.
This is where things get interesting. DGB lined up on the far side of the field and was able to again get half a step or so in very tight man coverage. The physicality he brings to the table is imperative to the success of these looks, but at the end of the play, DGB is clearly ahead of the Defender, behind the Safety who was keeping an eye on Jordan Matthews and in position to make a big catch if the pass came his way.
Wentz decides to attack the Cover-2 here, hitting DGB underneath for what is normally a short gain. Green-Beckham catches a ball thrown to his outside, meaning he has to adjust to make the catch and then continue his route. From the snap, DGB creates a lot of space but carries enough speed so that when he makes the catch, he can pick up those important extra yards.
Shaking off one tackle is impressive, but then sidestepping another inside the ten is exactly what Pederson wants from his receivers. Just a few yards from his first Eagles touchdown, the Lions couldn’t bring DGB to the ground as his combination of athleticism and frame proved too much.
The big talking point after week 5 was the fade pass to DGB that fell incomplete. The fade is a play that fits DGB perfectly, in fact he caught numerous touchdowns and even a 2-pt conversion on this route as a Titan. In preseason, he caught one for the Eagles. Here however, the success of the play isn’t really on his shoulders.
It’s worth noting that there is a considerable height advantage. Nevin lawson is 5’9 and considerably lighter than the 6’5 Eagles receiver..and this is where the problems begin. DGB struggled to get separation as Lawson had the inside coming off of the line but upon the turn, moved outside to cut the fade short and derail the pass.
More notably though, DGB is 6’5. Wentz simply threw the wrong kind of pass, a high, arching pass would have been the ideal choice to fully utilize the reach radius of Green-Beckham and give him an advantage. The ball was also thrown inside, forcing him to basically jump his own route and leap inside to try and make the reception..an awkward adjustment to make which gave an advantage to Lawson. It’s great to finally see the fade being used by the Eagles when DGB is on the field..but you can’t make a cake with the wrong ingredients..and if you try, it can get messy.
The final clip I want to show is a screen pass. A nice, simple, well executed screen pass? Why? Because in the modern day NFL, the power of the star receiver is diminishing in favor of short screens and passes that move the chains. Just look at how well Dak Prescott looks on paper in comparison to how much he throws downfield. That’s not to say that a star WR is not important nor relevant, because they’re absolutely crucial..but the reliance on that “one guy” is fading slightly.
DGB proves here he can be effective in the screen game. He may not be the size of Darren Sproles or have the speed of Agholor, but a reliable pair of hands and some toughness to shake off yet more tackles and rack up those extra yards make him just as dangerous.
It may not seem like much, but DGB is becoming multi-dimensonal very quickly..and that’s only going to continue as time goes on.
If you compare the looks DGB got against the Lions to how he was used in week one, the contrast is startling. As his playbook knowledge has increased, the Eagles are able to use him reliably in more ways..and it’s showing. He may not be the most dominant receiver or a number one option just yet, but he’s rapidly becoming a player who can contribute to every aspect of the receiving game..making him invaluable to the progress of what is a very young and versatile Offense.
While players like Agholor and Huff continue to squander opportunities to shine, DGB is quietly chipping away and climbing up the depth chart en-route to what could one day be a feature role in Pederson’s Offense. The only question now is, will week 6 be the game where he finds that elusive first touchdown?
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports