While Gil Brandt is one of my least favorite national perspectives, the NFL.com analyst did make a name off of player evaluation as the Cowboys VP of personnel for nearly 30 seasons, so his thoughts are at least worth hearing out.
In a piece where he discussed potential impact rookies, Brandt brought up the name of one Eagle specifically. It wasn’t Marcus Smith or Jordan Matthews, but rather third-round pick and former Oregon Duck Josh Huff.
Instant impact: Helping to fill a departed dynamo’s shoes.
After spending four years at Oregon, Huff should already be familiar with the system of Eagles coach (and former Ducks head man) Chip Kelly – and that will be a huge advantage, especially for a receiver. Notably, Huff played immediately upon arriving at Oregon rather than redshirting, even making two starts as a true freshman. When a player doesn’t get redshirted in his first year, especially at a strong program, it’s an indicator of significant talent. Huff grabbed my personal attention last November in a rivalry game against Oregon State, which I was watching to get a look at Beavers receiver (and futureSaints draft pick) Brandin Cooks. Huff was unbelievable in that game, hauling in nine catches for 186 yards and three scores.
The third-round pick has very good running ability; he can line up in the slot and go in motion on sweeps, which is the role that DeSean Jackson thrived in with the Eagles last season. With Jackson now in Washington, Huff should have a shot to start Week 1. While he’s not quite as fast as Jackson, he is stronger. I think he’ll be able to help make up for Jackson’s absence and produce. I wouldn’t worry about fighting for playing time with fellow rookie Jordan Matthews (drafted by Philly in the second round), as Huff and Matthews will be used differently — Matthews is more of an outside threat. And while recently acquired running back Darren Sproles might cut into Huff’s catches a bit, I’d expect Sproles to have a bigger impact on fellow ball carrier LeSean McCoy. Huff is also a good kick returner. With such a versatile skill set, he has a chance to be pretty valuable as a rookie.
I think over the long-term Brandt is right. Huff figures to be the Eagles’ slot receiver, and Matthews will be on the outside. In 2014, I think that both will get their chances to make a mark, but if Matthews starts, it will be in the slot–not outside. Matthews getting a majority of the snaps in the slot, and the idea that we will likely see more two tight-end sets with Zach Ertz and Brent Celek, leads me to think that Huff won’t be a consistent contributor immediately, due to lack of snaps.
That doesn’t mean that he couldn’t have a DeSean Jackson-esque rookie year where he does explode in some games, but I don’t anticipate him coming in here and being an elite slot-threat immediately, either.
DeSean is gone, and if Chip Kelly was really looking to ‘replace’ him in the offense, he wouldn’t have gotten rid of him in the first place. Josh Huff is here to be Josh Huff. Chip Kelly set it up that way, and I have trust that he has a plan.