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August 22, 2016

Wideout Josh Huff is running out of time to prove he deserves spot on Eagles roster

Eagles NFL

Midway through the preseason schedule, it would appear the top half of the hourglass that is wide receiver Josh Huff's Eagles career is down to its final few grains of sand.

The 24-year-old wideout from Oregon was taken 84th overall (3rd round) in the 2014 NFL Draft and – along with Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz – is one of four pass catchers taken in the early rounds during Chip Kelly's tenure as head coach. 

In the 10 drafts prior to their most recent (dating back to 2006), the Eagles selected five receivers and a tight end in the first three rounds, meaning in the seven years prior to Kelly taking over, the team drafted just two – both pro bowlers who are no longer on the roster.

YEAR PICKROUND OVERALL
2015 Nelson Agholor, WR
1 20
2014 Jordan Matthews, WR
2 42
2014 Josh Huff, WR
3 86
2013 Zach Ertz, TE
2 35
2009 Jeremy Maclin, WR
1 19
2008 DeSean Jackson, WR
2 49

Matthews and Ertz seem to be working out just fine for the Eagles and are certainly in the team's long-term plans following the regime change this offseason that saw Doug Pederson replace Kelly following a 7-9 campaign in 2015 and Howie Roseman return to his former front office role of general manager.

As for Huff and Agholor, their futures in South Philly aren't quite as set. But of the two, Agholor seems like the one most likely to stick with the Eagles this season given where he was taken in the draft (20th overall) and the potential upside he has as a vertical threat on a roster that is in desperate need of one.

And with the recent addition of 2015 second-round pick Dorial Green-Beckham, the emergence of Paul Turner as a legitimate candidate to make this team, and the presence of veterans Reuben Randle and Chris Givens –not to mention that Huff's lack of production from his first two seasons* has carried over into the 2016 preseason – it's beginning to look more and more like he could be among those left off the 53-man roster.

* 35 receptions, 410 yards, three TDs in 27 games; one return TD in 35 kickoff returns (26.1 yds/ret)

"There are [a lot of guys in the mix at WR]," Pederson said Monday when asked to assess the position. "Again, that's probably another position that we look at here, particularly in the next couple of weeks, and it's tough because you don't carry a ton of receivers. I can't tell you exactly what number that's going to be, whether it's four, five, or six guys.

"Again, you want to keep them all, but we've got to find the best players at every position that are going to help us on game day. That's just the bottom line."

For as much attention as Agholor's subpar 2015 season has received – and that's warranted given the first-round pick spent to draft the USC product – Huff's wasn't much better.


G REC/TGT YDS Y/R TD
Huff 15 27/42 (64.3%) 312 11.6 3
Agholor 13 23/44 (52.3%) 283 12.3 1

The one thing Huff has going for him is what he brings to the table on special teams. Huff has returned 35 kicks for the Eagles over his first two seasons, including one for a touchdown in his rookie year. But he wasn't nearly as effective last season, something that could come back to hurt him when cuts are made.

"I've got to see who can help us right now, bottom line," Pederson added. "We play in a couple of weeks ... you've got to have 53 guys that you can plug in at any given notice, moment, and expect them to play. So a lot of times it comes down to special teams value, and how many core units that player is a part of."

It's no secret that special teams can be the difference between making a team or being left looking for a job in early September. But that isn't always enough, as Huff acknowledged on Monday.

"It's never enough," he said. "I just want to come out here and show what I can do on offense, hold on to the ball, and make plays."

Pederson also spoke to the importance of having talented players on the practice squad, but Huff is no longer eligible. However, that could actually work in his favor if the team opts to keep him on the active roster and send a guy like Turner, who is eligible, to the practice squad instead.

The best way for Huff to flip that hourglass and extend his Eagles career is with a strong showing this weekend against the Colts. 

Huff has been running with the first team, who typically see the most action of the preseason in Week 3, and while that's given him plenty of opportunities to make plays in practice.

"Obviously, with the injuries that have occurred, I've gotten a chance to get more opportunities to show what I can do," he said. "I've just got to continue to work and put my head down."

Huff's action in-game action, however, has been limited, as is the case for all the starters. So far this preseason, he's caught just three passes for 13 yards on 40 or so snaps, which doesn't provide a trustworthy sample. 

They can expect to see more time this week.

"We've got to start getting those players, Josh Huff being in that group, more touches, more reps; offensively and on special teams," Pederson added. "I would expect his workload to potentially increase this week."

With only two more preseason games remaining and Green-Beckham, Turner and others gunning for his spot, Huff better show Pederson something. Otherwise, he could go from being penciled in as a starter heading into the preseason to unemployed by the time it's over. 

"I'll tell you this, it's the unfortunate part of this business because you want to be able to keep everybody, number one. ... But a lot of times you end up cutting players that are good players for you [and] that obviously have success in other places," the rookie head coach said. "Again, that's just the nature of this business. At the end of the day, myself and Howie [Roseman] and the coordinators, we've got to make the best decisions for our team."

Right now, what's likely best for this team is to move on from Huff. But he'll get at least one more chance to prove that statement false.

How?

"Just make plays. That's all," Huff said when asked what he needed to do on Saturday night. "Nothing more, nothing less. Just make plays."

[PhillyVoice's Jimmy Kempski contributed to this story.]


Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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