The Eagles don’t often let you see them sweat these days, but their recent moves at wide receiver look downright panicky.
In a matter of 12 days, the Eagles released Kamar Aiken and Markus Wheaton (Sept. 1); added Rashard Davis and Greg Ward to the practice squad (Sept. 2); re-signed Wheaton, guaranteeing his 2018 salary in the process (Sept. 4); released Davis and Ward (Sept. 7); signed Reggie Davis, Braxton Miller and Doren Miller to the practice squad (Sept. 10); worked out Breshad Perriman (Sept. 11); and released Wheaton — again — to re-sign Aiken (Sept. 12).
The most recent change might be less geared toward substituting Alshon Jeffery’s production, pushing Mike Wallace and Shelton Gibson or finding a spark for Nick Foles. It seems now the Eagles are searching for a replacement for Mack Hollins.
In between the flurry of transactions, Hollins landed on injured reserve Sept. 6 after reportedly suffering a “minor setback” in his recovery from offseason hernia surgery. The Eagles have dramatically altered the back end of the depth chart in the days since.
The issue isn’t necessarily on offense. There was certainly some anticipation Hollins would take a step forward in his second NFL season, but we’re talking about a fourth-round pick who recorded 17 receptions for 235 yards and one touchdown including playoffs as a rookie. Anything he gave the Eagles in the passing game was gravy.
Where the Eagles are really feeling the loss is on special teams. Hollins played 50.8 percent of the club’s special teams snaps in 2017. Only four players were on the field a higher percentage of the time, and two (Trey Burton and Najee Goode) departed in free agency.
Without Hollins, Gibson played 81.5 percent of the special teams snaps in Week 1. However, he was used sparingly on offense — only four plays.
Sure, the Eagles also need bodies with their No. 1 receiver still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. But Jeffery began taking part in individual drills on Wednesday and is expected back in uniform in a matter of weeks. His injury doesn’t appear to be the primary concern long-term, and if it is, with respect to Aiken, the front office really needs to do be doing more.
As difficult as it would be to find a stand-in for Jeffery, it seems the Eagles are having a similarly hard time filling Hollins’ role. And while most of the ensuing transactions are so far inconsequential, all the wavering back and forth resulted in the misstep of paying Wheaton $790,000 for a week’s worth of work. By no means is the amount a backbreaker; it’s just rare to see this front office flustered.
This, at least in part, to replace Hollins, not Jeffery.