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A closer look at why Mack Hollins deserves more playing time

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Mack, the knife?

Philadelphia Eagles v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Eagles enter Week 14 with the best scoring offense in the league. And there’s room for improvement. As good as the Eagles passing attack has been—only one other team, the Patriots, have three players with at least 5 touchdown catches, and the Eagles trio of Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, and Zach Ertz have 7 each—the team doesn’t have a reliable second option on the outside. Torrey Smith was supposed to provide that, but he hasn’t. His speed has worked as a floor spacing presence, but he hasn’t been productive in his last seven games or a deep threat in his last seven games. An upgrade is in order, and the Eagles don’t have to look far: Mack Hollins has been more productive than Smith when given the chance.

Hollins has been thrown to just 14 times this season. 13 if you want to be really specific, as he ran a wrong route on one and wasn’t throw at or to, he was just the intended receiver. Of the passes where he has run the correct route and been thrown the ball, he’s caught all of them. It’s a very small sample size, but it’s been an effective one. On half the catches Smith has, he has two thirds the yards of Smith. In one third the playing time, Hollins has over two thirds the production:

Smith has played 65% of snaps. He has 10% of the team’s receiving yards.

Hollins has played 22% of snaps. He has 7% of the team’s receiving yards.

Beyond just the yardage total, he’s been more productive on a micro level. 7 of Hollins’ 13 catches have gone for at least 10 yards, while only 11 of Smith’s 27 catches have. 8 of Hollins’ receptions have gone for a first down or touchdown, the same as Smith.

On first down, Hollins has been targeted 7 times and caught all 7, 3 have resulted in 1st downs, the other four set up 2nd and short (4 yards or less). Smith has been targeted 18 times on first down, with 6 incomplete, 3 resulting in a 1st down, and 7 in 2nd and short. Not all of those are his fault, Carson Wentz’s early season struggles with the deep ball directly effected Smith.

As the season has progressed, Smith has played less, in the first four weeks of the season he played a low of 71% of snaps, from then through the Bears game he played a high of 66%. Last week against the Seahawks he played 77%, the second highest rate of the season for him, and his 5 catches totaled a paltry 29 yards.

But Hollins hasn’t seen a real increase in playing time. His only games with more than 25% of snaps were blowout wins against the Broncos, Bears, and 49ers, in all other games he’s played less than 25% of snaps. An increase in playing time has to come at the expense of someone, and further decreasing Smith’s role is warranted. In his last four games, Smith has 13 catches, for 98 yards and a touchdown. He’s simply not getting the job done.

Hollins’ absurd catch rate is unsustainable, but the bar he needs to clear is Smith’s recent play, which is doing more harm than good. Smith was a worthwhile gamble in the offseason, but unless he suddenly turns it around, he won’t be on the team in 2018.

Hollins has a future on the Eagles. Perhaps it is nothing more than a role player and key special teamer (he’s 5th on the Eagles in special teams snaps). If so, that’s fine, you need depth in the NFL, and Hollins has so far filled out the role he was drafted for. There’s little downside to seeing what more playing time for Hollins can do for the Eagles offense. If this offense can find yet another gear during the rest of December, it could be lethal in January.