Josh Huff made a career making big plays while at Oregon, even after then-head coach Chip Kelly departed for the Philadelphia Eagles. Now that the two are together again in Philly, Huff hopes to continue the trend at the professional level.
His 102-yard kickoff return in the preseason opener shed all anonymity about him, and gave Eagles fans a glimpse of something they haven’t seen in six years. The kickoff return game has been the weakest link on the Eagles special teams, as they have not returned a kickoff for a touchdown since Quintin Demps did so in 2008. Expectedly, Kelly was very impressed by Huff’s debut.
“It’s good to know you’ve got a kick returner who can finish things,” Kelly told Philly.com’s Tim McManus. “If you don’t have that type of speed, or you’re not as physical, you’ll get through the first wall, but then you’re going to get tackled on the 40. Which isn’t bad, but we’ll take the return for a touchdown any day.”
Huff needed the big play in order to propel him into the spotlight. Many fans scratched their head when he was selected in the draft. Contrarily, Huff’s shoddy 4.51 40 time didn’t seem very Oregon-esque. Many thought Kelly was simply rebuilding his roster, and not accepting that college schemes don’t immediately translate to the professional level. Kelly has bucked that notion before, and will look to repeat it with his use of Huff.
Huff’s next three returns only totaled 41 yards, but the touchdown captured Eagles’ fans imagination at a position that they have cycled countless players through in recent years.
Huff showed that his 40-yard dash time does not denote his true speed. He may have trouble cracking the lineup of wide receivers this year, but he has found his niche, which is how most players secure a roster spot. Huff emulates the same versatility that fans saw from DeSean Jackson. The only dichotomy between the two is Jackson’s speed.
Huff will fit nicely into the offensive “toy” position where his body of work will consist of end-arounds, reverses and jet sweeps, which are all hallmarks in Kelly’s “fast break” offense. Granted, he didn’t make much of a splash in the first game, but the preceding statement speaks for itself. One preseason game is merely a tease as to what we see from Huff.
Huff’s hidden advantage is his understanding of the offense. He won’t have any curveballs thrown his way, as he know what to expect in this offense.
But could he actually be better than Jordan Matthews from the get-go?
He will certainly compete with Matthews, who didn’t make any significant impact in his debut, for offensive reps. Matthews, after drawing a ton of camp buzz, only caught four balls for 14 yards in the Eagles’ first preseason game. He seemed to lack explosion, as he was tackled in the open field almost immediately after the catch. Matthews is still the more intriguing of the two. His 6’3″ frame makes him an instant threat in the red zone, and he has enough speed to create separation.
Over the course of the next few years, Matthews may be the better receiver, but Huff has more upside as an overall offensive utility. Huff could provide that potential immediately, while the jury still appears to be out on Matthews. Then again, we didn’t think that a week ago.
As of now, my judgment on the two will be suspended. One preseason game is too small of a sample size to analyze either of their potential. Nevertheless, Huff will have a role in the offense. An offensive dignitary like Kelly won’t use a player he is familiar with as a spare part; he will use Huff’s multi-dimensional ability as a sparkplug for the offensive engine. And Matthews, in time, provides the possession threat that the Eagles have lacked for quite some time.