Alshon Jeffery

Biggest beneficiary of Torrey Smith trade

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Biggest beneficiary of Torrey Smith trade

Midway through the 2017 season, it looked like Mack Hollins was on the verge of replacing Torrey Smith in the Eagles’ receiver rotation.
 
While the big-ticket veteran Smith was struggling – just 15 catches for 221 yards the first nine games of the season – Hollins, the fourth-round rookie from North Carolina, was showing flashes, most notably with that electrifying 64-yard touchdown catch against the Redskins.
 
As it turned out, Smith finally got it together and was solid down the stretch, with 13 for 157 in the postseason, and Hollins only had nine catches for 71 yards the last 11 games of the season.
 
But it was only a matter of time before the Eagles asked Hollins to replace Smith.
 
The Eagles on Friday traded Smith and his $5 million salary cap figure to the Panthers for cornerback Daryl Worley, and Hollins, who carries a $714,283 cap figure, is the likely beneficiary.
 
As of now, Hollins moves up from No. 4 to No. 3, behind Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor.
 
Can he handle it?
 
Hollins showed a lot last year in limited playing time. He separated himself from the Eagles’ other rookie draft pick, fifth-rounder Shelton Gibson, early in camp and found himself in the rotation on a championship team from the start.
 
Although his numbers weren’t anything special – 16 catches for 226 yards and that one long TD – Hollins demonstrated a lot of qualities the Eagles like.
 
He’s very smart with a tremendous work ethic, he’s an unselfish team-first guy that fits the Eagles’ culture, he’s big and fast, he’s got soft, reliable hands, and he runs crisp routes.  
 
With Marcus Johnson going to Seattle in the Michael Bennett deal, the Eagles have very little experience at wide receiver behind Jeffery and Agholor, who both played so well in 2017.
 
Hollins, Bryce Treggs, Gibson and Greg Ward lead the next group, and while the Eagles could still add in the draft, as of now Hollins will be expected to make that big first-to-second-year jump that so many receivers make.
 
Can Hollins do in 2018 what Smith did in 2017? Or more?
 
There’s no reason to think he can’t.
 
Consider this: Hollins as a rookie played 39 percent as many snaps as Smith (735 to 287) and had 44 percent as many catches and 52 percent as many yards.
 
So on a per-snap basis, he was actually more productive than Smith.
 
And the fact the Eagles went out and hired his college position coach, Gunter Brewer, certainly gives even more weight to the notion the Eagles expect Hollins to have a bust-out season in 2018.
 
Jeffery caught 25 passes as a rookie and 89 in his second year, and while that kind of improvement is extreme, it’s realistic to think Hollins could be a 45-catch, 650-yard guy in 2018.
 
Hollins is young and inexpensive. He’s exactly the type of player the Eagles need to make a big jump if they’re going to maintain their success moving forward.

Eagles mailbag — Top priority, surprise cuts, Jeffery's shoulder

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Eagles mailbag — Top priority, surprise cuts, Jeffery's shoulder

More questions and answers today. This has been an Eagles mailbag marathon this week. 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

And here's today: 

There are a few. Howie Roseman obviously has to figure out a way to get the team under the salary cap by the time the new league year starts on March 14. But there are ways to do that and he's really good at it. 

The biggest thing I think the Eagles need to figure out is how to keep Nigel Bradham. Of all their pending free agents, he's the one who is most important to bring back. I'm not sure what it will cost and the Eagles obviously don't have a ton of room to work with, but this is worth getting done, especially as Jordan Hicks returns from that Achilles tear. 

Bradham's performance in 2017 after Hicks went down was really important to the team's success. He's still 28, so he'll be able to play at a high level through another contract. But this is really his first shot (and maybe his only) to sign a big deal, so the Eagles can't expect him to offer a discount. 

I'm not listing Torrey Smith, Brent Celek or Vinny Curry here because we know those guys make a lot of money and I'm not sure how surprised anyone would really be if one or more of them is released. 

A couple surprise names might be Chris Maragos and Chance Warmack. For clarity, I think both will be on the team, but if the Eagles cut Maragos, they'd save $1.5 million and Warmack would save them a little over a million. But Maragos is still a great special teams player and Warmack is still their top backup guard. 

It'll be a little tight. Jeffery is expected to need about six months to fully recover. I wouldn't expect to see much of him in training camp or in the preseason. So the Eagles might not have Carson Wentz throw a pass to Jeffery again until — at the earliest — Week 1. That's a little troubling. But if I had to bet, I'd bet that Jeffery is ready for the opener. After all, he just played an entire season with a torn rotator cuff. 

Eagles Stay or Go — A few easy choices for once

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Eagles Stay or Go — A few easy choices for once

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Mack Hollins
Roob: Hollins wasn't really a factor later in the season, once Torrey Smith got going, but he did show early in the year what kind of player he can be, notably with that 64-yard TD catch in the second Redskins game. Depending on what the Eagles do about Smith, Hollins should be either the Eagles' third or fourth receiver this fall. Either way, he'll be here, and I expect him to make a big jump in Year 2.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Hollins caught just 16 passes as a rookie and it seemed like he just never started producing the way he seems capable of. Even when Smith struggled, Hollins got more playing time and didn't produce. The good news is he's still young and plays a role on special teams. The Eagles will probably bolster their receiving corps in some way, but if they don't, Hollins will have a shot at starting if Smith is gone next season. 

Verdict: STAYS

Alshon Jeffery
Roob: Jeffery really played better than his stats this year. He made every big catch, caught every big third-down pass, made huge plays in the end zone. Jeffery was a star receiver without a star receiver's stats. His unselfish attitude carried over to the rest of the receivers and throughout the roster. And he did it all with a rotator cuff injury that required post-season surgery. Can't wait to see what Alshon can do healthy.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Jeffery didn't put up eye-popping numbers during the regular season, but if you needed any proof he's a No. 1 receiver, go back and watch Super Bowl LII, when he made that ridiculous catch in the end zone for a huge touchdown. The good thing about Jeffery is he really doesn't care at all about his numbers. There are a lot of diva receivers in the NFL, but Jeffery clearly isn't one of them. All he cared about last year was hoisting the Lombardi Trophy and he certainly helped get the Eagles there. 

Verdict: STAYS

Malcolm Jenkins
Roob: Jenkins has so many roles on and off the field — community activist, NFLPA organizer, locker room leader — it's easy to forget just how good a player he is. Jenkins has been here four years and has had four very solid, very consistent, very productive seasons. He made his second Pro Bowl this year and joined Bill Bradley (3) and Dawk (7) as only the third Eagles safety since 1960 to make multiple Pro Bowls. Jenkins is signed to a cap-friendly deal through 2020 and should be an Eagle for many years to come.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: As important as Jenkins is to the Eagles as a safety and defensive back, you could make a legitimate argument that he's even more important to the team as a leader and man. There's a reason he became the guy to follow up Doug Pederson's postgame speeches. He isn't just the leader of the defense; he's the leader of the entire team. And on the field, he's still playing at a really high, Pro Bowl caliber level. He's 30 now but is still signed through 2020 and maybe outside of Fletcher Cox is the Eagles' most important defensive player. 

Verdict: STAYS