Philadelphia Eagles: Mack Hollins is a canary in a coal mine

(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

While releasing Mack Hollins will certainly appease angry Philadelphia Eagles fans, his struggles are symptomatic of the team’s larger offensive issues.

Mack Hollins seems like an all-around good guy.

A reptile lover, dance enthusiast, and aficionado of throwback Philadelphia Eagles jerseys, Hollins was drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft for two very specific reasons: To extend the field as a big-bodied deep threat, and play exemplary special teams.

One out of two ain’t bad.

More from Philadelphia Eagles

You see, over four-seasons at UNC, playing with eventual third overall pick/NFL conundrum Mitch Trubisky, Hollins averaged 20.6 yards per catch, including a nation-leading 24.8 ypc in 2015. Granted, he never caught more than 35 balls a season, but in a post-DeSean Jackson world, his potential was worth a look for Howie Roseman and company.

If it didn’t work out, or Hollins was outplayed by 2017 fifth-round pick Shelton Gibson no biggie, he could always remain consistently employed as a special teams gunner.

And as a rookie, that’s exactly how things went down.

Firmly entrenched as a backup behind players like Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and a then-good Nelson Agholor, Hollins appeared in all 16 games (287 snaps) and caught 22 balls for 226 yards and a touchdown. He also contributed heavily as a special teamer, logging five tackles on 290 snaps.

The proud owner of a minty fresh Super Bowl ring, Hollins looked like a potential breakout candidate as a sophomore, especially after flipping Smith to the Carolina Panthers for almost-immediately-waived cornerback Daryl Worley, but unfortunately, things took a disastrous turn that very literally derailed his pro career: A groin injury that cost him the entire 2018 season.

While Hollins eventually made his way back to the field in 2019, he never quite recaptured the speed or promise that made him an intriguing delight as a rookie. Mind you, he still played very well on special teams when given an opportunity, but even that became less and less frequent, as for some bizarre reason Hollins became an offensive starter.

Can we be honest for a second? I like Hollins more than most – maybe anyone outside of his immediate family – but even I wouldn’t have given him an average of 33 offensive touches a game. How did Doug Pederson think that was a good idea? Week 5, 6, 7? Ok, I get it, but when Hollins has more pass interference penalties than catches over an eight-week period – a cry for help if I’ve ever seen one – one has to wonder if the player is being put in the best position to succeed.

Seriously, the Eagles drafted JJ Arcega-Whiteside to become an offensive starter, and yet Hollins, a part-time player in college, was somehow expected to start over a 2019 second-round pick? That is just nutty.

Had Hollins been allowed to stay in his lane, playing a handful of offensive snaps while putting in work on special teams, seldom a fan would even know he was on the team, but after being forced into an uncomfortable situation in a broken offensive system his release became all but an inevitability.

I mean why not release Hollins, right? It’s certainly easier than firing Mike Groh, Press Taylor, or Carson Welch. It’s certainly easier than admitting that the pass at all costs system Pederson has lived or died by in 2019 doesn’t work. It’s simple.

Next. The Philadelphia Eagles passed on DeVante Parker two years in a row. dark

However, when Mack Hollins is claimed by the New England Patriots, fills his natural role as a reserve/special teamer, and has a decade-spanning career with multiple Pro Bowl appearance (taking over for fellow receiver-turned-special teams ace Matt Slater) will the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense be any better? As tough as it is to admit, Hollins’ struggles are symptoms, not the problem.