The Eagles wide receivers are not good. They drop too many balls and can’t consistently get open against man coverage. There’s no injuries at the position currently and the Eagles have spent a 1st, 2nd & 3rd round pick on the position over the last couple of years. They should be better.
So why are they bad and does Chip Kelly deserve any blame for this?
Two quick notes. Chip doesn’t deserve blame for signing Riley Cooper, he was awesome in 2013 and had a great connection with Nick Foles. That wasn’t a bad signing at the time. He deserves a LOT of blame for signing
a bag of trash Miles Austin and continuing to give him snaps. It’s inexcusable right now.
So anyway, let’s look at the receivers the Eagles have drafted under Chip. He didn’t have full control when Matthews and Huff were picked but he reportedly wanted Matthews in the first and was a huge fan of Huff who he coached at Oregon. Nelson Agholor was definitely a Chip pick as he had control of the roster by then.
So when looking at NFL.com’s draft profile for these three players, something really stands out to me. Lets look at Huff’s perceived pre-draft weaknesses first:
‘Was not pressed at Oregon. Lacks elite explosion and top speed to pull away vertically. Limited route tree. Could stand to refine his route running. Lets some throws into his body and tends to trap some. Not a go-up-and-get-it guy (average leaping ability)’
Now let’s look at Jordan Matthews:
‘Adequate line release. Fairly linear. Not a quick-twitch athlete. Does not show elite explosion to separate vertically. Lets some throws into his body and is not immune to concentration drops’
Finally, let’s look at Agholor:
‘Play strength is below average. Had issues shaking Oregon State CB Steven Nelson. Will get stuck in low gear from time to time by long, press corners with strength. Lean frame. Worked well from bunch formations and might rely on pre-snap movement to free himself, depending on matchup’
Now does anything stand out to you? Look at their ability to get off press. Both Huff and Agholor had issues against it and Matthews was described as adequate.
The Eagles receivers haven’t been able to beat press man coverage all season. Coincidence? Austin and Cooper obviously struggle to beat man coverage too because they aren’t very good. The box score doesn’t show it but Agholor has definitely been the most consistent receiver at beating man coverage. I think the pre-draft report on him is unfair based on what I watched of him but still it shows he had issues against press coverage in college.
So what does that tell you? I think you can assume that Chip believes he can scheme receivers open against press man coverage. Well he can’t right now, receivers aren’t getting open. Chip deserves blame for taking receivers that struggle against press coverage. Here’s just a few (I could show loads) of examples of Eagles receivers failing to get open against man coverage.
Bradford isn’t an aggressive thrower either and Chip should know this. He rarely just throws it up for grabs when a receiver has 1 on 1 coverage. That means you need receivers who can separate. Bradford clearly doesn’t trust a big target like Riley Cooper to go up and get the ball as Cooper hasn’t been targeted once since the Giants game.
Finally, both Huff and Matthews weaknesses include problems catching the ball. Hey guess what? They’ve both had problems catching the ball this season. Huff had major problems catching last year.
Obviously this doesn’t mean Chip doesn’t value receivers who catch the ball well. But I don’t know, maybe he believes it’s a correctable problem and is more willing to take a chance on people with this problem than other GM’s? I have no idea. I’m just guessing like everyone else.
When looking at Jeremy Maclin’s pre-draft strengths for example, you see this:
‘Natural pass catcher. Good body control to contort in space and make the spectacular reception. High-points passes and is an explosive leaper’
None of the Eagles receivers were described as a ‘natural pass catchers’ in their pre-draft reports. I think Chip deserves some blame for the performance of the Eagles wide receivers this year. More importantly though, he needs to look at what he values in a wide receiver and do some self scouting because right now what he’s doing, isn’t working.
Despite my complaining. I wouldn’t give up on the group yet. I still believe Agholor can be very good. Matthews is an above average receiver and Huff could develop into a decent player, albeit none of them look like becoming legit number 1 receivers anytime soon.