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April 29, 2017

By drafting UNC’s Mack Hollins, Eagles upgrading top-ranked special teams unit

The website Football Outsiders has metrics that evaluate pretty much every facet of the game, and while their numbers don’t need to be taken as gospel, they do a better job than most. And on special teams the last three seasons, the Eagles have ranked 1st, 10th, and 1st overall.

This consistence has made Dave Fipp somewhat of a cult hero among Birds fans:

The Eagles place a heavier emphasis on special teams than most NFL teams, and Fipp’s units have been successful. That is partially why the Eagles' fourth-round pick (118th overall), North Carolina wide receiver Mack Hollins, interested the front office.

Many drafted receivers enter the NFL and are forced to play special teams for the first time in a while. This won’t be the case for Hollins, a former walk-on at North Carolina who already knows what this is like.

“Special teams is really the way I got on the field,” Hollins said on a conference call Saturday. “I walked on and redshirted my first year and special teams was how I got my opportunity to travel with the team.”

So basically, Hollins has been through this process before. He became a captain after his freshman season at UNC and ended up playing all four special teams units in college: kickoff, kickoff return, punt, and punt return.

With his college success and the Eagles team success (on special teams, anyway), the Rockville, Maryland native said it was “heaven-sent” that he landed in Philly.

“You got one opportunity, one play to make a difference and I take that play very seriously,” Hollins said. “I know a lot of college players kind of let their pride get in the way, but I think special teams is either field position or points. So, it’s just as important as any offensive or defensive snap.”

We don’t want to downplay the rest of Hollins’ game. The 6’4”, 210-pound receiver will get his chance as a red-zone threat, and in college he caught 20 touchdowns in 33 games. Repped by the same agency as Carson Wentz, he worked out with the Eagles quarterback during the pre-draft process in California.

Hollins is an interesting guy — he owns a couple of snakes, which is nothing compared to his dad, who somehow had a pet lion growing up — and we’ll see what he can do over the following weeks. But one thing is for sure: the Eagles receiving corps just became a more competitive place now with the addition of a player in Hollins who might contribute in multiple areas.

“Special teams is limitless for me,” he said. “I think you can learn and always become a better special teams player. And Coach Fipp is the guy that I would definitely want to be learning under.”

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

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