Hollins Pushing for More Playing Time
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — To date, Mack Hollins has been a bigger deal nationally for riding his bike to work on Monday night or nailing the "Backpack Kid" dance after igniting the Eagles' offense with a 64-yard bomb from Carson Wentz during Philadelphia's 34-24 win over Washington.
Locally, the bigger deal is a rookie receiver making a push for more playing time.
Ironically, Hollins was on the field for his big moment because veteran receiver Torrey Smith, signed in free agency to be Wentz's deep threat, was winded from the prior play and excited while tapping Hollins.
“He happened to go on a deep ball before that and tapped me, which has happened a million times,” Hollins explained. “I was just the lucky one who got the deep ball on the next one. My job is to catch the ball.”
A 6-foot-4, 221-pound fourth-round pick, Hollins has been doing the most with his limited opportunities. In fact, every time Wentz has looked the North Carolina product's way this season, Hollins has come up with the football.
In just 70 offensive snaps as the team's fourth receiver behind Alshon Jeffery, Smith and Nelson Agholor, Hollins has been targeted just six times and has produced six catches for 134 yards and the touchdown on Monday night, a mind-blowing 22.3 yards per catch, stunningly similar to his final two years in Chapel Hill where he produced 22.9 yards every time to caught it.
With his length and straight-line speed, Hollins can stretch the field, a role currently at the top of the job description for Smith, a veteran who has been a disappointment statistically at least.
As an example, Hollins has been in about 80 percent fewer offensive plays than Smith and produced the same number of first downs (five) and touchdowns (one apiece).
"Winning games is most important to us," Hollins said at his locker on Wednesday. "There's no prima donnas in our room. Everybody wants to catch the ball. Everyone wants to score touchdowns. But that's not realistic to say everyone's going to score a touchdown in the game or everyone is going to get five catches but it is realistic to say to say you can win every game. That's our goal."
When you take into account that Hollins is a significantly better blocker than Smith the obvious assumption is that the rookie should at least be pushing the descending veteran for playing time.
In recent weeks, though, Hollins has actually worked in less. He saw a career-high 17 snaps at Kansas City in Week 2 and has been at nine and eight the previous two weeks.
So Doug Pederson isn't quite ready for change yet but the coach seems to be getting closer.
"He's not hurting himself, obviously," Pederson said when asked about a potentially increased role for Hollins. "The last couple of weeks we'll continue to try to get them all in the football game. He's another one of our young talented guys that you like to see grow with your quarterback. But, yeah, we'll keep sprinkling him in there. And his value on special teams as well increases a little bit. So we'll just keep him coming."
Smith, meanwhile, has already started to lose some playing time. He spiked by participating in 86 percent of the action against Kansas City in Week 2 and that's fallen to 56 percent and 63 percent over the past two weeks.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, however, Smith's lesser role has been a combination of Hollins, Marcus Jonson and more use of 13 personnel (three tight end sets).
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen