Through the first two preseason games, the Philadelphia Eagles offense has moved the ball at an impressive clip. Sam Bradford converted his lone series into a score, and Mark Sanchez –despite being thoroughly unimpressive and inconsistent– has managed to keep the offense productive. When the Eagles’ offense takes the field against the Atlanta Falcons, the quarterback will likely act the part of a glorified point guard leaning on a prolific rushing attack; however, as such, a top-level point guard needs an effective and consistent supporting cast. There’s little doubt that the Eagles have a talented stable of pass catchers, but as of now, the young wide receiver corp has a lot to prove before they can be considered a high-level unit.
The Eagles currently employ what might be the most inexperienced wide receiver group in the NFL. Assuming that Nelson Agholor eventually displaces the incumbent Riley Cooper, the Eagles three starting wide receivers will have a grand total of 2 years NFL experience –and just 1 year starter’s experience– heading into week one. So far this preseason, the Eagles WRs have demonstrated just how green –yet hyper talented– they are. Nelson Agholor has wowed us with jaw-dropping dynamism, and then, in the same breath, frustrated us with inconsistency. Josh Huff, meanwhile, has been relatively invisible in the games to this point, despite dominating the training sessions. To no surprise, the only consistent presence has come in the form of slot man Jordan Matthews, who himself still has a lot to prove.
The point is, the regular season is fast approaching, and is sure to be much less forgiving to a young group of receivers who have, to this point, been mistake prone.
Nelson Agholor is a promising young player and potential star, but will likely be held back by the staff in the early part of the season. Chip Kelly isn’t counting on his rookie wide receiver to take the league by storm, but he does expect Agholor to make all of the routine plays; dropping easy balls (ala the Colts game) and fighting for extra yards while exposing himself to untimely turnovers (his latest mental lapse) will be a detriment to his odds of contributing meaningfully early on. Agholor is an explosive and nuanced receiver despite his age, but his fundamental inconsistencies have been apparent since the start of training camp.
It’s no secret that Josh Huff had a highly erratic rookie season, being an unwitting catalyst for back-breaking turnovers, all the while displaying dynamic return ability and (flashing) RAC skills. For a player that Chip Kelly described as needing to demonstrate improved consistency, Huff hasn’t exactly eased those concerns to this point. While it’s easy to explain away Huff’s lack of touches (minimal reps coupled with distribution of the football), it’s agitating that the one time he does touch the ball, he has to triple clutch it to reel it in. This is the sort of play that, last season, resulted in drops and turnovers for Huff. Now, to be fair, it’s just one play, but it’d be nice to see Huff smoothly pluck a pass from the air and turn upfield unhindered by some lapse in consistency. Huff has the ability to be a versatile and explosive weapon, but needs to find his stride.
It’s easy to understand why Eagles fans are excited by the team’s young receiver corp, however, their early struggles are a cautionary tale in regard to the group’s early expectations. It’s going to take the Matthews-Agholor-Huff trio some time to become a high level unit. Don’t be surprised when Riley Cooper and Miles Austin mix in liberally to start the season, as the coaching staff will be careful in how they develop their young crop of weapons.
Agholor, Matthews, and Huff have the potential to develop into one of the leagues most prolific receiving corps, it’s just going to take time.
In other receiver news, as Chip Kelly mentioned during his press conference, Miles Austin was held out of last nights contest at the head coach’s discretion:
This has become commonplace this training camp. Kelly isn’t shy about holding out players who are injury risks. Among the players who have seen some lenience are the aforementioned Austin, DeMarco Murray, Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans, and Kiko Alonso: all players who have had durability issues in the past. The practice of holding players out isn’t uncommon in the NFL. Last season, players such as Rob Gronkowski and Calvin Johnson were frequently given days off during the week at behest of the staff. Now, this isn’t to say that Austin is even in the same stratosphere as Johnson or Gronkowski in terms of pedigree, but he is a player that the staff has identified as an injury risk, and they’ll continue to hold him –and others– back, if they see fit.
Speaking of injuries, both Riley Cooper and Rasheed Bailey appear to be in the clear after exiting last night’s game:
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