Philadelphia Eagles: Mack Hollins is an elite gunner

(Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)
(Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images) /

In his first football game in what feels like forever, Mack Hollins proved why he could be an indispensable force for the Philadelphia Eagles as a gunner.

After an almost year-long sabbatical from the game of football due to a pesky groin injury, Mack Hollins reintroduced himself to Philadelphia Eagles fans in the best way possible in their second preseason game of the summer.

Now sure, he didn’t exactly blow things up on the offensive end of the field, only hauling in one pass for six yards off the arm of future Hall of Famer Clayton Thorson, but Hollins did make his presence known on special teams, where he absolutely terrorized the return men of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In that regard, Hollins looked elite.

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While most casual NFL fans may not even know what a gunner is – FYI it’s the player who runs down the field to tackle a kick or punt returner near the sidelines – having a good one could make a huge difference in winning the field position battle and forcing opposing teams to go a little further to reach the endzone.

Make no mistake, having an elite special teams unit matters.

Need proof? Look no further than the Birds’ double-doinking victory over the Chicago Bears last January. If it wasn’t for an outstretched hand by reserve tackle Treyvon Hester, our old friend Cody Parkey could have made that very makeable 43-yard yard field goal to sway the fortune – and the final score – out of Philly’s favor.

Though players like Carson Wentz, Jason Kelce, and Alshon Jeffery aren’t going to spend any time fielding punts on special teams,  the Eagles had 58 different players who logged at least one snap on special teams in 2018, with 17 players logging at least 100 over the course of the regular season.

Sure, some of these special teams superstars are certified starters like Kamu Grugier-Hill, Dallas Goedert, Avonte Maddox, Corey Clement, and Malcolm Jenkins, but others, like LaRoy Reynolds, D.J. Alexander, and Deiondre’ Hall played less than 10 defensive snaps throughout the regular season.

At 6-foot-4, 221 pounds, Hollins is bigger than all of those players and becomes truly intimidating when he gets a full head of steam barreling down the field.

For better or worse, teams are going to prioritize players who can contribute on special teams for bottom-of-the-roster spots, and could double, or even triple down on a position if it’s filled with players who can provide value in the return game.

While Hollins may not have been as impressive on the offensive end of the field as players like Sony‘s brother Marken Michel or failed option QB Greg Ward, he can do one thing better than virtually any other player on the Eagles roster: Run down the field really, really fast and hit opposing ball handlers.

Hollins was so elite in his preseason debut that he created not one, but two big plays on the punt return team, with the second resulting in two Jaguars running into each other on a botched fair catch.

Regardless of who you want to win the Eagles’ last few wide receiver spots, it’s hard to look at that play and not see a player who deserves a spot on an NFL roster.

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So, as the bottom of the roster wide receivers fight for the attention of the Philadelphia Eagles’ coaching staff, don’t count out Mack Hollins just yet: He’s very much still in the running for a roster spot thanks to his elite special teams prowess.