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March 11, 2017

Eagles like the varying skill sets of their new wide receiver trio

A year after the Philadelphia Eagles had arguably the worst wide receiving corps in the NFL, they suddenly have a pretty good looking trio in Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and Jordan Matthews.

The Eagles' two newest acquisitions, Jeffery and Smith, have a chance to mesh well together as the new No. 1 and No. 2 receivers in the Eagles' offense.

Jeffery is a big-bodied wide receiver who wins with his size. His 6'3, 216-pound frame, to go along with his 33" arm length, makes him a tough matchup against small corners both in the short-to-intermediate passing game and obviously, his size makes him a legitimate red zone threat that the Eagles lacked on the outside last season. Additionally, unlike some bigger-bodied guys, Jeffery can make plays down the field with his impressive ability to win "just chuck it up" 50-50 balls. He's a player who can work every area of the field, which makes him a potential mismatch against any opponent the Eagles face.

In regard to his penchant for being able to make contested catches, Jeffery said, "It's just something that comes natural to me." He added, "Just throw it up."

Smith, meanwhile, is more of a player who can take the top off of the defense. Smith ran a 4.41 at the Combine, and in six pro seasons, he has a career yards-per-catch average of 17.0 to go along with 25 receptions of 40-plus yards. A season ago, opposing defenses had no reason to respect the deep ball, as none of the Eagles' receivers proved they could consistently make plays down the field. The Eagles now have two players who can do that in Smith in Jeffery, but in much different ways.

Smith's numbers were way down after a productive first four years in Baltimore. When asked if he still has his speed, Smith retorted, "Absolutely, If you wanna go race, we can do it." 

"You don't want to have three receivers that do exactly the same thing ... I think it's very important that each of these guys bring in their own individual skill set."

He then expanded, "All jokes aside, I can still run. I definitely haven't lost a step. I think because I was part of an organization before in Baltimore that we had a lot of success early (in my career), people think I'm super old, but I was really young when that was happening. I'm only 28. I just turned 28 in January. I take good care of my body, and I'm ready to roll."

In terms of skill set, the Eagles wanted diversity, according to personnel chief Joe Douglas.

"You don't want to have three receivers that do exactly the same thing, and I think it's something that we discussed earlier with our offensive coaches from Doug to Frank [Reich] to now Mike Groh, Flip [Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo]," he said. "I think it's very important that each of these guys bring in their own individual skill set."

With that deep threat element added to the Eagles' offense, that should open up opportunities for both Matthews and Zach Ertz to work the short to intermediate parts of the field. A season ago, those areas of the defense were often congested, again, because opposing coordinators had no reason to fear the deep ball. That led to tighter throwing windows for Carson Wentz and more contested catch opportunities for the Eagles' receivers. That could partly explain some of the drops, although certainly, we're not excusing the drops.

At 6'3, 212, Matthews is a tough matchup for smaller slot corners. Add in 6'5 Zach Ertz, and the Eagles have three quality pass-catching options who are at least 6'3.

And then, of course, there's running back Darren Sproles, who is as unique as they come, in terms of receiving threats.

A season ago, the argument could certainly be made that Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham brought different skills sets to the table. This group, however, can actually play.

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