Eagles may already have the ‘big-slot’ receiver they were looking for

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In the weeks and months leading up to the NFL Draft, many wondered what the Eagles were going to do at wide receiver. The team had recently brought DeSean Jackson back home, but would they keep Nelson Agholor and his $9.3M cap hit onboard the same ship? All signs seemed to point toward a potential early exit, at least to begin with. The Eagles met with a flurry of receivers before the draft and they all carried one of two traits.

R2: A.J. Brown, Ole Miss: Official visit
R2: Parris Campbell, Ohio State: Official Visit
R2: N’Keal Harry, Arizona State: Official Visit
R2/3: Emanuel Hall, Missouri: Combine
R3/4: Diontae Johnson, Toledo: Official Visit
R4: Mecole Hardman, Georgia: Official Visit
R4/5: David Sills, West Virginia: Senior Bowl, Combine
R5: Jalen Hurd, Baylor: Official Visit
R5: Hunter Renfrow, Clemson: Senior Bowl
R6/7: Olamide Zaccheus, Virginia: Local Visit
R7: Alex Wesley, Northern Colorado: Senior Bowl
UDFA – Ventell Bryant, Temple: Local visit
UDFA – Vincent Papale, Deleware: Local visit
UDFA – Jesper Horsted, Princeton: Local visit

A) ‘Big Slot’ receiver. (Think Jordan Matthews)
B) Speedy WR2 option who can take the top off a defense

The Birds went on to draft Stanford’s JJ Arcega-Whiteside. ‘Sega’ would fit the mold of a bigger wide receiver, standing at 6’2, 225 lbs, but is built in the vein of Alshon Jeffery and plays like him too. The way he boxes out defenders, leaps into the air to contest 50/50 balls and maintains strength through the stem of the route drew many comparisons to his current teammate. It’s no surprise then that ‘Sega’ saw some time in the slot during the Eagles’ first OTA practice, it would behoove the Eagles to move him around the line of scrimmage as much as possible…but there’s another name to take note of here if we’re discussing the slot specifically.

Mack Hollins.

After undergoing a sports hernia surgery in the early stages of the 2018 offseason, the UNC standout endured a bumpy ride. Hollins missed a huge chunk of Training Camp and preseason due to a lower-body injury, prompting the team to carry some extra depth and go as far as bringing Markus Wheaton onto the roster. But that injury would send Hollins to IR and rip him of his sophomore season.

With OTA’s kicking off once more in Philadelphia, Hollins is still nowhere to be seen, with Pederson offering a small update in yesterday’s press conference.

Mack is another one continuing to rehab and getting stronger every day. Another one I don’t want to rush or put him out there too soon. I’m encouraged by his progress right now, too

The phantom injury remains just as mysterious as it was when it was first announced. But if Hollins is able to get back on the field before the end of OTA’s, or at the very latest by the start of Training Camp, he may have a very important role.

Hollins saw a surprising amount of action during his rookie year, recording 226 receiving yards and a touchdown in the process. The deep-threat rapidly became a fan favorite and was out to prove he’s much more than a perennial special teamer, but a lot of people are forgetting where he did his damage from.

Hollins, at 6’4, 221 lbs, scored his only NFL touchdown when working out of the slot. He caught a huge first down against the Panthers when working out of the slot. He caught a big pass over the middle against the Chiefs when working over the middle.

According to Playerprofiler, Hollins played 6% of his 32% snap share out of the slot during his rookie year. If it’s a ‘big-slot’ receiver that the Eagles are looking for, Hollins not only has the size and frame to be physical against nickel cornerbacks and dominate the middle of the route, but this could help the Eagles massively in run-blocking situations. The Birds love sending running backs outside the tackles and with Miles Sanders now in the fold, we can expect to see plenty more of that. With Goedert and Hollins potentially lined up close to the tackle, it could generate a real barrier for Sanders to find the corner unchallenged.

Not only that, but we know the Eagles have placed a real focus on their red zone offense. An 11 personnel formation where Jeffery, ‘Sega’, and Hollins are all on the field could be just as terrifying as any involving both Ertz and Goedert.

And he’s fast…very fast.

Although his numbers were not that of a top-10 WR in College, he did average 20.6 yards per reception, showing the potential of a legitimate deep threat. The Eagles have filled their ‘need for speed’ for now, but with Agholor’s long-term future anything but certain, Hollins could be a likely replacement, if he can get on the field.

The beauty of having Agholor around for one more year is that there’s no immediate pressure on Hollins. The Eagles have an exceptionally talented wide receiver corps and with ‘Sega’ in the mix as well, the UNC product can be eased back into the rotation without the pressure of having to produce instantly.

The biggest road-block for Hollins right now is getting back on the field, but if and when he does return to the fold, don’t be surprised to see the physically dominant receiver who caught 81% of catchable passes as a rookie, bump inside.