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.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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