Eagles Hope to Turn Hollins’ Potential into Production
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) – Maybe the best way to describe rookie Eagles receiver Mack Hollins is to crank up Hulu and turn on “The Brady Bunch,” specifically the episode where Greg nearly becomes rock star “Johnny Bravo.”
Like the oldest of Mike Brady’s sons, Hollins “fits the suit.”
At 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds with 4.5 speed, the lengthy former North Carolina standout looks like a million bucks and stood out at the Eagles recent rookie camp.
One of Philadelphia’s fourth-round picks last month, Hollins was actually a departure from the theme personnel chief Joe Douglas pushed when describing fellow rookies like Derek Barnett and Donnel Pumphrey …production.
Had Hollins’ numbers matched his measureables at UNC, he would have been in the discussion to be a premium-round pick but his senior season was cut short by a broken collarbone resulting in just a 16-catch season despite the fact that the Tar Heels’ quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky, was the second overall pick in the draft.
Hollins’ production topped out at 35 receptions as a junior while in Chapel Hill. From the Eagles’ perspective, however, the exception proves the rule and both Howie Roseman and Douglas believe Hollins is the type of prospect who projects better at the professional level than he did in college.
“He’s 6-4. He can run. (He is a) physical receiver,” Roseman said. “(He) Can go up and get the football, and then he brings a lot to the table other than that as well.”
That was a nod toward Hollins’ special teams ability, the place where he is expected to contribute right away as a top-tier gunner.
“After my freshman year on special teams, I became a captain,” Hollins explained. “I will never forget that special teams is how I played and how I got my opportunity. I started on all four (special-teams coverage units) my entire career. I love special teams. You have one opportunity, one play, to make a difference, and I take that play very seriously.”
The Eagles, though, have been consistent in saying they ultimately view Hollins as far more than the next Chris Maragos or Bryan Braman.
“(Hollins has) tremendous upside as a receiver,” Roseman claimed. “He’s got the intelligence and work ethic to work on whatever his deficiencies are. In the meantime, he has a role to fill (on special team), and you can get him on the field on the 46-man roster. But we’re not looking to draft (just) special-teams players in the fourth round.”
That’s where the upside comes in and there is little question that Hollins is gifted physically and he displayed some impressive traits when he hit the NovaCare Complex practice fields for the first time.
“I don’t think there is anybody who is a better deep threat than me in adjusting to deep balls and catching deep passes,” Hollins claimed. “Also, with my speed, I think people underestimate my ability to run routes. I can get better, but I think I am a better route runner than people think. With my speed, I can get defensive backs out of their pedal and turning their heads quicker.”
That kind of skill set is what jumps off the page when you first see Hollins but after you talk to him you quickly learn intelligence is another one of his attributes.
So, the real question for the Eagles is what turns potential into production?
North Carolina was unable to figure it out with Hollins and now it’s up to new receivers coach Mike Groh, as well as Doug Pederson and Frank Reich to find the key to unlock the mystery.
The first step is becoming a more well-rounded threat. Hollins comes in a player known as a field-stretcher X receiver (split end) who can go up and get 50-50 balls. To break into a group headlined by Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Jordan Matthews, however, Hollins will need to move around the formation more and learn different roles, be it as a flanker (Z) or in the slot.
“I have no problem doing that,” Hollins said. “I did a lot of slot stuff (in college). Not specifically in games, but in practice I did a lot of slot stuff. The expectation here, is that I want to learn every position. If the coaches need to put me somewhere, I want to be ready to go in there.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen