All-22: How Arrelious Benn Fits With the Eagles

Last week, the Eagles announced that they’ve acquired wide receiver Arrelious Benn from the Bucs.

A second-round pick in 2010, Benn failed to live up to expectations in three seasons with Tampa. But he’s only 24, has some size (6-2, 220), a versatile skill set and can play special teams.

How does he fit into the Eagles’ plans going forward? Let’s take a look at the All-22.

Note: These plays are from 2011. Benn only played in 79 snaps last year because of an MCL sprain and shoulder injury.

I’m guessing this first play stuck out on tape to Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman. First, look at where Benn is lined up.

Per Pro Football Focus, he’s lined up in the slot 18.7 percent of the time the past three seasons. Not a huge amount, but Benn’s shown he’s capable of lining up inside.

If Kelly’s past is any indication, Eagles wide receivers are going to see a lot of screens next season. Benn has some experience there. Twenty-one of his 59 career receptions, or about 36 percent, have come at or behind the line of scrimmage.

On this play, the throw from Josh Freeman is high, but Benn comes down with it.

Benn has had inconsistent hands. He only had one drop as a rookie, but had eight in 2011.

After he comes down with the ball, it looks like safety William Moore’s got him.

But Benn breaks the tackle and picks up extra yards.

The two key terms with him are YAC and versatility. In 2011, he averaged 6.6 yards after the catch, 11th in the NFL, per PFF. In 2010, it was 6.3, which was tied for sixth.

Benn’s size can be a bit misleading in this respect. Given his size, he doesn’t break a lot of tackles, but as the YAC numbers show, he clearly can be elusive.

A somewhat similar type of play next. Here, the Bucs use pre-snap motion. Benn starts out split to the right before moving behind the left tackle, almost like a third tight end.

 

Tampa’s in a heavy run look, and they show run-action when the ball is snapped. Benn sets up like he’s going to block the outside linebacker.

But he then slips behind the line of scrimmage, receives the pass and takes off for a 33-yard gain.

Nice job of design here to utilize Benn’s skill set. Because of his size and blocking ability, the disguise worked. Once Benn got the ball in space, he used his blockers well and picked up a big chunk of yardage.

Of course, there were several times when the Bucs went ahead and actually used Benn as a blocker. On this play against the Colts, he starts out split out wide, but then motions in tight to the line of scrimmage like an extra tight end.

 

The carry goes to LeGarrette Blount, and Benn does an outstanding job of getting his hands on the safety and pinning him inside.

Blount scampers all the way to the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown. As an item in the “little things” category, Benn hustles all the way downfield after his initial block and is the first person to greet Blount after he scores.

The obvious implication here is that it’s nice to have a bigger wide receiver who is willing to block. In fact, we pointed out with the All-22 that this had become a major issue last year.

But the bigger point that the last two plays shows is that Benn has the potential to be another versatile piece. He can line up in multiple spots and be used in various roles. That’s attractive to Kelly.

And finally, Benn adds depth with the ability to line up on the outside. One skill that he has is the ability to make catches even if he’s not open.

Here, he’s lined up opposite Packers corner Tramon Williams. You can see Benn has no separation when Freeman lets the ball go.

But it’s a back-shoulder throw, and Benn’s able to adjust and make a play on the ball for a 28-yard completion.

One theme that’s emerging early on is that Kelly doesn’t like one-dimensional players.

“You really get pigeon‑holed when you have one‑dimensional players,” Kelly said last week. “And when you do, it makes it a little bit easier for defenses to go out there and understand what’s going to go on in certain formations.”

Those words were spoken during James Casey’s introductory press conference, but they apply to Benn as well.

With the breakdown above, I’m not out to make Benn seem like the second coming of Jerry Rice. He’s underachieved in his first three seasons and suffered a pair of knee injuries. There’s a reason the Bucs let him go.

But he does add another versatile piece to the Eagles’ offense. He doesn’t have Jason Avant’s hands and hasn’t shown Avant’s ability to make tough catches in traffic, so don’t pencil Benn in as the Eagles’ No. 1 slot receiver just yet.

And while he did return kicks last year, it’s not like he stood out. Benn averaged just 23.5 yards per return in 2012, which would have ranked 19th, had he had enough to qualify. As a point of reference, Brandon Boykin averaged 23.0.

Benn is useful on coverage, having come up with five special-teams tackles last year and eight as a rookie.

Right now, the projection for Benn is WR depth and special teams. But he’ll have time to prove he deserves a bigger role this offseason.

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  • DutchEagle

    I think CK is gonna terrorize defenses with motioning and lining up DeSean all over the field. He was used kinda one dimensional in AR’s offense (take the top of defenses), but I’m guessing that’s not gonna be the case coming season. I’m psyched!

  • usmcnole

    Benn and Cooper will be battling for 1 roster spot

    • B-West

      I thought Cooper came on pretty well last year, personally. And his blocking was easily noticed, but that may have been due to Desean and Jeremy’s lack of blocking. I’d prefer to see Cooper stick around for one more year.

    • Septhinox

      I don’t think it will be between them. I think that while Avant has his value, he may very well find himself battling for a roster spot as he isn’t multidimentional. He definitely has value in his hands and routes, but is that enough?

      • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

        The only other thing to consider is his value as a veteran/glue-guy. I know that gets overplayed a lot, but Howie continues to bring up the culture cliche. I wouldn’t want any rookies taking cues on blocking, route running, and toughness from “professionals” like Jackson and Maclin. If that indeed plays a role in decision-making, I would not be surprised to see Avant for 1 more year.

        • Septhinox

          Good points. Howie has made a point to emphasize that.

    • Magilacutty

      I’m thinking clay harbors spot if it’s not already going by way of james casey

    • CapeCodEagleFan

      nah

  • knighn

    I think much will depend on the kind of offense Chip Kelly implements. In college, the Ducks ran the ball far more than they passed the ball, so Kelly’s WRs had to run-block more than run routes or catch the ball. Weird concept, huh?

    It may come down to “Total Value” in Eagles Offense + Special Teams. If Kelly still prefers to go run-heavy, Benn & Cooper may have more value than Avant, but if Kelly is going to be more balanced or a little pass-heavy, Avant & Cooper may have more value. We’ll see.

    I think one or more of these guys is gone, either through cuts or trades (or both): Maclin, Avant, or Demaris Johnson.

  • atb124

    Demarious Johnson is the guy this move puts on the outside looking in, not Cooper or Avant.

    • Septhinox

      lol what? You mean the MOST versatile WR the Eagles have? Ok. lol

  • Wilbert M.

    I think Benn is viewed as a backup for Casey more than a traditional WR. He can play H-Back and block. I think he takes a roster spot from Havili or Polk.

    • jmkrav

      Thats a great point. At 220lbs, he’s not that much smaller than casey. at 6’2 and with our new “sports science” program, he could add 5-8 lbs pretty safely and be that WR/TE hybrid

      • Magilacutty

        His hands gotta get more consistent to be a solid option though. Good point, he’s a hybrid vigor

  • ICDogg

    Nice piece, Sheil.

    To me, Benn’s biggest issues have involved failing to catch the ball. He just doesn’t have great hands. I don’t know whether there’s something that can be done about that.

    • CapeCodEagleFan

      Barkley throwing only as hard a necessary…

  • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

    although this kid has hands of stone he out plays Cooper who I anticipate will be moving on down the road soon. Realistically, I don’t see this kid making the team. McNutt and Johnson were talented enough to stick with the team and depending on their development may be tough to beat out.

    • Lukekelly65

      i think the WR battle in camp is going to be super interesting if you figure Jackson and Mac have their spots locked up that leaves 4 more spots maybe even 3 if we keep an extra TE (which kelly likes to do) so i could see Cooper making the roster because of his size and the flashes he showed last season. with Avant im not sure how well he fits in kellys scheme it seems to me that chip likes either big body wide outs or small speedy guys. Avant is very solid and a player i like alot but he seems to be stuck in between the two body types kelly likes one thing he does he going for him is that he is a hard worker and a good blocker so maybe he does fit but after that i think its to close to say i think Mcnutt and Benn offer some of the same things Mcnutt is bigger but i think Benn is the more talented guy… not to mention Damarius Johnson i think hes a perfect chip kelly type of guy but he might get lost in the numbers hopefully not though i like him as well.

    • CapeCodEagleFan

      cooper will be on the team this year, imho, above mcnutt and johnson…

  • dislikedisqus

    It looks like the Eagles have gone after a bunch of “fallen angels”, guys with high grades coming out of college who have underachieved. It’s obviously risky but there could be 1 Or 2 huge payoffs. I suppose it’s a kind of Moneyball strategy.

  • supamancam

    Nice work Sheil… I agree with the significance of this acquisition and think Benn has the potential to be a legitimate receiving threat when healthy. Coming out of college, Tampa obviously agreed too seeing as they drafted him in the 2nd round – 2 rounds ahead of Mike Williams their current starter. Don’t discount this guy as “depth” type player…. He is capable of developing into an Anquan Boldin type physical presence.

  • JofreyRice

    Wow, an all-22 breakdown for a guy we got for a 6th round draft pick. This is the kind of thankless, in-the-trenches dirty work that makes you an all-pro for Eagles analysis, Sheil. This should be a bullet point during contract re-negotiations with the organization!

    • Graham

      Ya I don’t know what the hell I’d be doing if I didn’t find this site…………. It has saved my off season along with MANY other eagles fans

    • CapeCodEagleFan

      you are going places sheil. Glad your on my eagles for now.

  • Trew

    You’all need to look at the Video of Been in College, he is a very versatile play who ran out of the backfield frequently in the read option.

  • http://twitter.com/sheldycooperFTW Phils Goodman

    To reiterate the hands point, I noticed Benn body-caught a lot at Illinois. Obviously that works against him and mitigates his natural size advantage. If he hasn’t fixed it, that’s probably one of the main reasons the Bucs were willing to give him away.

  • atlvickfan

    If he can get open in the red zone, that would be a HUGE plus.

  • http://twitter.com/Null_0 Blaise

    Benn is our Boldin. GoEagles!