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The Mack Hollins mystery

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NFL: Oakland Raiders at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Once upon a time, the Philadelphia Eagles selected a wide receiver out of North Carolina with a fourth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

This player would go on to have an encouraging rookie season as a fourth receiver and special teams contributor for the Eagles. He caught 16 of his 22 targets for 226 yards and one touchdown. His 14.1 yards per reception ranked first on a roster that was good enough to win the Super Bowl. His four special team tackles ranked tied for fifth most on the team.

It was looking like this player was poised to take some kind of step forward in his second season. He was getting a lot of first team receiver reps due to Alshon Jeffery missing practice while he recovered from shoulder surgery.

Unfortunately, the opportunity wasn’t seized. The player failed to stand out.

But it wasn’t necessarily because he just wasn’t good enough. It was later revealed that this player was coming off a previously unreported sports hernia surgery. So, maybe this player was having a quiet offseason because they weren’t 100%.

It’s weird, though, because this player didn’t miss much practice time during 2018 offseason practices. He then played 25 snaps in the Eagles’ first preseason game.

That would be the last time we saw this mystery man in action.

We didn’t know it at the time, though. We actually thought this player might play in the Eagles’ Week 1 game against the Falcons. He said he planned on playing.

One day later, Doug Pederson said this player suffered a “minor setback” and would be out. A couple days after that, this player was placed on injured reserve.

And he’d stay on the IR for the entire 2018 season.

Given that he’s been out for so long, one would think that this player would be practicing by now. But that’s not the case. Here’s what Pederson had to say about him ahead of the Eagles’ first OTA practice:

“Mack is another one continuing to rehab and getting stronger every day. Another one I don’t want to rush or put him out there too soon. I’m encouraged by his progress right now, too.”

Ah, yes. Mack! That’s his name. Mack Hollins.

You see, it was easy to forget because it felt like he was a figment of our imaginations. “remember that Eagles receiver with the pet snakes? You know, the one who rode his bike everywhere?”

Yeah, well, that receiver somehow still isn’t participating in practice. Given how much little information we’ve had to work with, it’s a bizarre situation.

We do know that Hollins is in the Philly area. We also know he was healthy enough to ride 15 miles on his bike as part of the Eagles Autism Challenge:

But we don’t know when Hollins will be ready to return to the football field.

And, further, we don’t know exactly how Hollins fits on the Eagles’ 2019 roster ... if at all.

Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor (barring trade) are all locks to make Philadelphia’s 53-man roster. The same goes for 2019 second-round pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside.

Beyond those four, it’s unclear. If healthy, Hollins seems like a good bet as a fifth receiver due to his special teams ability. But it’s just unclear what’s been going on with him.

Hollins’ competition isn’t insignificant. Shelton Gibson is still in the mix for a spot. Charles Johnson has experience as an NFL starter. Braxton Miller spent nearly the entire 2018 season on the Eagles’ practice squad. DeAndre Thompkins reportedly received the third most amount of guaranteed money out of all the Eagles’ UDFA signings and offers value as a punt returner.

Hopefully we’ll see Hollins back out on the field sooner than later. If he can build on the potential he showed as a rookie, I think he can be a solid contributor for this team.

It’s just hard to tell how realistic that is at this point. Even if Hollins does return soon, it’s fair to wonder how much his absence has stunted the 25-year-old’s development. (Not to mention going from No. 10 to No. 16 is a bad sign in terms of #JerseyNumberAnalytics.)

Just a weird situation.