Mack Hollins

Eagles WRs coach Gunter Brewer making impact with energy, crazy sayings

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Eagles WRs coach Gunter Brewer making impact with energy, crazy sayings

Gunter Brewer left the South. The South didn’t leave him. 

That much was undeniable as the Eagles took the field with their new energetic wide receivers coach this spring. 

Brewer, who took the place of new offensive coordinator Mike Groh, has already made an immediate impact on the Eagles’ group of wide receivers with his energy, his attention to detail, his southern drawl (he’s from Columbus, Mississippi) and … his sayings. 

Especially his sayings. 

“He’s just a country guy,” said Mack Hollins, who was also coached by Brewer at North Carolina. “That’s who he is, through and through. He has sayings. Crazy sayings that nobody understands.”

Crazy sayings that nobody understands? 

Go on. 

Hollins picked his favorite: “When something’s like, from way back in the day or you haven’t done something in a while, he’ll say, ‘You haven’t done that since Moby Dick was a minnow.’”

OK, that’s pretty good. For Hollins, he’s heard most of these before, so he doesn’t get much out of them. But he does enjoy seeing his teammates react the first time a good one pops out. 

“He says some crazy stuff, man,” undrafted rookie Tim Wilson said. 

Bryce Treggs didn’t have to think about his favorite for very long. Brewer has a special name for a top-down read. 

“He calls it a Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras read … top down,” Treggs said mimicking someone removing their top. It takes a second … got it? Good. Moving on. 

“He’ll say some stuff like that to get our attention.”

For Shelton Gibson, he likes the image Coach Brew elicits when a player sort of tiptoes on a bubble screen. Brewer calls it crawfish. 

Wilson really enjoys the way the receivers break down their group. 

“We always break it down on freak time,” Wilson said. “He says, ‘Freak time,’ we say, ‘Showtime.’ ‘Freak time!’ ‘Showtime!’ ‘Freak time!’ ‘Showtime!’ ‘Freeeeaak time! Shoooowtime!’”

That seems to be a favorite for a lot of receivers. Hollins even had little yellow caution signs around his locker last week warning of freaks in the area. 

“I don’t know [what it means],” veteran newcomer Mike Wallace said. “We just roll with it. We freaks of nature. And it’s our time. Showtime, baby. So when we out there, it’s always showtime.”

It was obviously pretty important for the Eagles to find the right replacement for Groh, who became the team’s offensive coordinator. Remember, Groh did a masterful job in 2017 after one year of Greg Lewis. Brewer has coached at the collegiate level for over 30 years, most recently as the receivers coach/co-offensive coordinator at UNC. 

It has been pretty clear Brewer, at the very least, has brought a new energy to the practice field. Here he is assaulting his players (just kidding). 

Just last week when asked about Brewer, Doug Pederson marveled at how the receivers have already begun to gravitate to him. It’s not hard to figure out why. 

Sometimes it is hard to pick a favorite saying though. Greg Ward couldn’t pick just one — “There’s so many,” he said, calling over Wilson to brainstorm before giving up — but he enjoys them all. 

“He has great high energy,” Treggs said. “It’s hard to come in and be dragging around, not be in a good mood as soon as you come into the meeting room, he has the most energy in the room and he’s the oldest dude in the room. So for him to have that energy, we all kind of feed off of that.”

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Mack Hollins ready for next step ... even at left tackle?

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Mack Hollins ready for next step ... even at left tackle?

Everything is in place for Eagles wide receiver Mack Hollins to have a breakout season in 2018. He knows the playbook. He’s been reunited with his old college position coach. At 6-foot-4, 221 pounds with 4.5 speed, he has freakish ability.

All Hollins needs now is an opportunity — and he’s not sweating that, either.

“I know all the positions, so wherever (coaches) want me, I’ll play,” Hollins said last week. “Left tackle, (Jason Peters) needs a breather? I’m in.”

Rather than promote Hollins up the depth chart after a quiet-but-effective rookie season, the Eagles signed Mike Wallace in free agency. Wallace is expected to take Torrey Smith’s place as the offense’s deep threat and third receiver alongside Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor. 

The addition seemingly makes the rotation even more difficult for Hollins to crack than a season ago.

“Don’t get caught up in, ‘Oh he’s been playing in the league 10 years, he’s a starter for sure,” Hollins said. “Play your game, act like everybody is on the same level, everybody is on the same playing field, and just do what you’ve been doing for your entire life.”

Is it just a coincidence Wallace is entering his 10th NFL season? Regardless, Hollins isn’t conceding a starting job to anybody, nor was his confidence shaken by the veteran wideout’s arrival. To the contrary, Hollins views Wallace’s experience as another resource.

“The older guys are such a blessing because you can get things you would never learn from anybody else unless you played,” Hollins said. “No coach can teach you what a 10-year veteran can teach you, so having guys in the locker room who can teach you to play the position is invaluable.”

Hollins is all about the mental side of the game these days. The 24-year-old admits he’s more comfortable heading into his second season in large part because he has the Eagles’ playbook down. He doesn’t have to think about where he’s lining up or where he’s going.

But in order to truly distinguish himself, Hollins believes he needs to take his understanding of the game to the next level.

“The biggest thing is always going to be the playbook,” Hollins said. “That’s always my top. Master the playbook. Once you get to there, you have to be able to master defenses and recognize defenses like a quarterback.

“We’re all at this level because we’re physically talented, so staying one step ahead there isn’t as easy as staying one step ahead mentally, because a lot of guys can’t hang.”

To aid Hollins’ progress, the Eagles added Gunter Brewer to the coaching staff during the offseason. Brewer took over as wide receivers coach for Mike Groh, who became offensive coordinator.

Brewer famously coached the likes of Randy Moss at Marshall and Dez Bryant and Justin Blackmon at Oklahoma State. Most recently, he was the offensive coordinator and receivers coach at UNC, where Hollins led the nation his junior season with 24.8 yards per reception and finished his college career with a school-record 20.6 average.

If anybody can tap Hollins’ full potential, it might be Brewer.

“He just knows how I learn,” Hollins said. “He knows I love being able to see things or being able to do them on the field.

“I love coach Brew, and we have a lot of fun.”

Hollins is clearly enjoying himself. Outside his stall in the Eagles’ locker room are a pair of yellow warning signs — one reads “FREAKS only,” the other alerting defensive backs that FREAKS can cause severe burns.

“The FREAKS are coach Brewer’s thing,” Hollins said. “’Fresh receivers exciting all crowds.’

“I have them here so people know not to come over here unless they want the action. They better be able to bring it out there.”

He’s hoping that loose demeanor will rub off on the Eagles’ other young receivers.

“You have more fun with it when you’re relaxed and you don’t worry about it,” Hollins said. “I try to tell the rookies that. Act like you’re in your senior year of college. Relax. Don’t be so tense, because as soon as you get tense, you start messing up, then one turns into another, into another.”

Hollins was reliable in limited playing time as a rookie. The fourth-round draft pick finished the regular season with 16 receptions for 226 yards and one touchdown. However, it was his 72.7-percent catch rate that really stood out — good for ninth among NFL receivers with at least 20 targets.

For all the talk about learning the playbook, physical ability and having fun on the field, Hollins still has one simple rule above all else.

“Catch every ball that comes your way or you won’t be catching them much longer,” Hollins said.

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.