The Eagles were down 10-3. Momentum was all in favor of the road team as the Birds struggled to ignite anything on Offense. Out of nowhere, one wide receiver burst down the seam for a 64-yard score that sent the Linc into an uproar. That man was Mack Hollins. A rookie out of UNC, Hollins recorded his first NFL touchdown in emphatic fashion and showed the explosiveness he demonstrated throughout his college career.
A collar bone injury held the 118th overall pick back in 2016, as he received for 309 yards and four scores in the seven games he did play. At 6’4, 221 lbs, Hollins brings incredible size and speed to the table. A wideout who is able to mix it up in the redzone and be a force on special teams. Hollins set the the UNC record for yards per reception (20.6 avg.) and led the NCAA in yards per reception (24.8 avg.) as a junior in 2015. His 20 receiving touchdowns see him ranked 3rd in all-time Tar Heels history.
“First of all, he is a really smart guy.” Quarterback Carson Wentz said of his receiver. “So he can kind of get plugged in at X, at Z, at F. Every time he is in there it seems like he just makes plays. He does a great job in the run game with run blocking. We can kind of put him on some linebackers and do some different things. But when he is in there he just makes plays. He finds a way to get open and he is effective. And I don’t think a lot of teams really respect that or know that about him. So he is just a big weapon for us when we need a guy. He can just step in and kind of be anywhere.”
That last part is what really stands out. Throughout his career, Hollins has always flown under the radar. A special teams ace who could contribute when needed is the reputation he had to many. But what Mike Groh and the Eagles see in him is a ceiling far higher.
The Eagles have been craving an under-the-radar wide receiver for years now. Bryce Treggs, Dorial Green Beckham and even Riley Cooper were receivers who had taken on that role with little success or longevity along the way. A big body who can take the top off defenses and punish unsuspecting corners, Hollins fits the mold of a wideout the Eagles have long been looking to implement.
A perfect example of this role is Patriots wide receiver Chris Hogan. While Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola all kept Defenses honest throughout the 2016 season, Hogan would burst into life when other wideouts were tired or struggling to find separation, averaging 17.9 yards per reception and scoring 4 touchdowns during his 680 yard campaign. This year? Hogan already has 5 touchdowns to his name in a revamped Pats Offense and 378 yards.
Another fine example would be Taylor Gabriel of the Atlanta Falcons. His stunning Super Bowl performance is what really stands out, but the former Cleveland Brown has been an under-the-radar receiver upon entering the league. Six touchdowns last year saw Gabriel soar into the public eye and he already has 192 yards this year.
“He’s not hurting himself, obviously, making some plays.” Pederson said after the game. “The last couple of weeks we’ll continue to try to get them all in the football game. He’s another one of our young talented guys that you like to see grow with your quarterback.”
“But, yeah, we’ll keep sprinkling him in there. And his value on special teams as well increases a little bit. So we’ll just keep him coming.”
On special teams, Hollins has already flashed on countless occasions. The rookie wideout has been a constant force in containing punt returns and made several impressive plays through the opening few weeks. After a stunning training camp and a preseason in which he led the team in receiving with 139 yards, Hollins has patiently waited his turn.
With the Eagles basketball mentality continuing to come to fruition each an every week, we may see a lot more of Mack Hollins lining up all over the field…and that’s a prospect that should only excite Eagles fans as the team finally have a young receiver to build around…which in an offseason where two big names have clouded futures, is something that will be cherished.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports