Eagles Wake-Up Call: Huff’s Learning Curve

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Familiarity hasn’t totally worked to Josh Huff‘s advantage in the early going.

A common belief was that Huff, having played under Chip Kelly at Oregon, would be able to acclimate quickly given his intimate knowledge of the offensive system. The rookie had similar thoughts.

“He walked in here thinking, ‘Hey, I know this offense.’  He’ll be the first one to tell you there are a lot of things that have changed and been added from what he did at Oregon, which he just really had to do,” said Pat Shurmur. “We see a lot more defense.  We see a lot more man coverage in the NFL than they did in college.  So we’ve got a lot of the traditional things in the passing game that you would run at this level.

“So, that kind of shocked him I think initially that this isn’t exactly what we did at Oregon, but he settled in.”

Huff acknowledged that he was caught off guard and had to “re-tool and rebuild” his system. He would hear a play call and his mind would go back to Oregon’s offense so he would run the route that matched the concept from college. It took some time to work through that.

That’s one hurdle. The work load is the other. According to Shurmur, Huff has been given the most to learn out of all the young receivers.




Why is that?

"Actually, I have no idea," said Huff, drawing laughs. "I guess just because I'm so versatile. I can do so many things very well and they figured I can be mixed and matched on the outside and the inside. They can use my strengths very well and hide some of my weaknesses."

His roommate, Jordan Matthews, offered his take.

“The fact that he did play at Oregon so he knew Coach Kelly’s expectations. Those things I had to learn,” said Matthews. “They knew he was already able to adapt to come here and play so he had a lot more on his plate early on. You see him in the slot and now you see him work some on the outside, too. You can’t say enough about his will power, his fortitude and his work ethic out there. He’s pushing it and he’s getting better each day so we’re just going to continue to compete with each other."

Huff was deployed in a variety of ways while with the Ducks. He came out of the backfield:

He was an effective blocker:

They used him in the quick screen game:

And as a downfield threat:

He lined up inside and out. (Slot receiver was his primary position.) He ran the ball here and there and was prominently featured on special teams, including as a returner.

The plan is to tap into that versatility once again on the pro level.

“I’ve kind of taken Josh under my wing a little bit,” said Jeremy Maclin. “He’s a guy that can definitely make plays with the ball in his hands. I think he’s a guy that is going to be used where they ask him to do that: put him in special situations to help him go out there and use his playmaking ability."

Huff has had an up and down camp. Tuesday was no different. The 22-year-old dropped a short pass from Mark Sanchez early in practice. Brandon Boykin came up with an interception while covering the rookie a bit later. At the end of the session, Huff made a pretty diving catch in the left corner of the end zone.

Asked about the biggest adjustment going from college to the pros, Huff mentioned the physicality of the defensive backs at this level.

As Shurmur mentioned, the looks a receiver gets in the NFL are often different than on the collegiate level. It wasn't out of the ordinary for Huff to get free release while with Oregon:

Space is harder to come by now.

The competition is stiffer, the playbook is different than what he was anticipating and more is being asked of Huff than any other young receiver on this roster, but the third-round pick says he is up for the challenge.

"I see myself as a thoroughbred receiver that can do multiple things," said the 5-11, 206-pound Huff, who has been working primarily with the second team during team drills. "At this moment they want me to learn each and every position for the receiver and that's what I'm dedicating most of my time to. I'm not really worried about the ones, twos, threes, I'm just trying to worry about how can I get better and how can I make my team better."

Friday will be his first taste of NFL game action. Known to play with an edge, Huff anticipates that he will shine brighter once the hitting commences.

"Most definitely. I like to be physical, take on tackles, break tackles. In practice that's hard to do because we are a team and you want everyone to be healthy," he said. "I definitely think I'll stand out in a game more than I do practice."

WHAT YOU MISSED

Jordan Matthews wants Brandon Boykin, a Pope's blessing and Sheil's practice observations.

LeSean McCoy is very high on Matthews, and more in my camp notes.

"Can [Chip Kelly] stay a step ahead of NFL defensive coordinators?" What they're saying.

Expect more base looks on defense, but how does that impact Boykin?

Sheil breaks down the first (unofficial) depth chart of the season.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

The Eagles have depth issues at wide receiver, writes John Gonzalez of CSNPhilly.com:

It is early August. The Eagles won’t play a meaningful game for another month. But August will bleed into September before you know it. The roster will be trimmed to 53 men. The games will count. And Nick Foles will throw passes to … which wideouts, exactly?

During this last week or so of Eagles training camp, we’ve learned — or relearned — that the team’s depth at wide receiver gets awfully thin awfully quick. When Maclin went down with a brief scare on Monday, it was natural to flashback to last training camp when he tore his ACL and missed the season. Maclin says he’s fine. Maybe you believe it and maybe you don’t, but at least he was marginally active on Tuesday. Cooper and Maehl were not. They have ankle injuries (Cooper is still in a walking boot). Earlier this week, Chip Kelly said Cooper will be back soon but declined to elaborate.

The wide receiver competition is currently less about talent than it is about attrition and health. Stand upright long enough and you’ll get some playing time. For some of Tuesday’s practice, Arrelious Benn, Brad Smith and Ifeanyi Momah ran with the first team. Your defending NFC East champs, everyone.

Arrelious Benn could be the last receiver to make the team, notes Zach Berman of the Inquirer:

When the Eagles traded for Arrelious Benn in March 2013, they were cautiously optimistic. Benn is a big, talented receiver with run-after-the-catch ability – ideal for Chip Kelly’s offense. But Benn had not been able to stay healthy in his career, which started as a high second-round pick. Benn lived up to that reputation when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament during training camp last season.

The Eagles kept Benn and wanted to see him this season, because they never actually saw him last year. His injury occurred even before the first preseason game. Benn stayed in Philadelphia rehabbing, so he was a part of the team last year. Kelly appreciated that. Jeremy Maclin and Jason Phillips were the same way.

Benn needs to thrive in the preseason to make the roster, but he has a shot. The Eagles could keep six wide receivers, with four spots all but set in stone: Maclin, Cooper, Jordan Matthews, and Josh Huff. Brad Smith has been taking first-team snaps and is likely to make the roster, too. So Benn would need to beat out holdover Jeff Maehl, and a group of other young receivers vying for the roster.

COMING UP

Kelly will speak with the media prior to the team's 11:35 walk-through.

Don't forget to pre-order your Eagles Almanac.

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Josh Paunil contributed to this post.

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  • TNA

    I wonder if Huff could blow up an NFL CB back 10 yards like he did against Texas. He really does look like a RB playing WR.

    Looking forward to seeing how well the Eagles defense tackles for real against Chicago.

    • JosephR2225

      20 yards if the CB is DRC.

      • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

        Would have to catch up to DRC running from the contact.

  • JosephR2225

    “I’ve kind of taken Josh under my wing a little bit,” said Jeremy Maclin. “He’s a guy that can definitely make plays with the ball in his hands. I think he’s a guy that is going to be used where they ask him to do that: put him in special situations to help him go out there and use his playmaking ability.”

    ———————
    Wonder if he is training his replacement.

    • FluxCapacitor

      That came to mind with me also. When you think about it – Matthews is being focused on the slot, and is expected (I am assuming) to produce this year…he can expand out later after he gets the one position down. But, the coaching staff probably sees a longer runway for Huff and are teaching him everything so he can contribute more next year while doing a little this season.

      • shady25

        I think so. Chip already knows what he can do. I think he wants to use him the same way he did at Oregon and that’s why he is asking him to learn every position. Matthews is learning the slot and that’s it because that’s primarily where he is going to be this year. Next year is a different story. Smith will be gone and probably Maclin too based on how Cooper and Matthews play this year. If they light it up, then you don’t need Maclin and can plug Huff in outside or inside.

        • aub32

          I think you are expecting a bit much of Huff if you think he’s going to be the #1/#1A WR in only year 2. Mac will be back if he has a good year.

        • dnabrice

          They will want Maclin back in 2015. I don’t even think I’m going out on a limb with this one. Only issue is if he is injured significantly and someone is willing to pay him more than we are. He will definitely get a contract offer though.

    • aub32

      He probably feels like he doesn’t have much to worry about. The team did offer him a multi-year deal that he turned down. I doubt Huff becomes a stud in one season. So the Eagles will need a #1 WR in 2015. Maclin likely thinks he’s got that position all but secured with a good showing this year.

    • http://www.corcommunity.com/ Kelce’s Beard

      I’m curious if he ends up in more of a Sproles mold; I think he makes a helluva TAZR weapon. Not to say that he can’t succeed in a typical WR role

  • Loke1988

    I know I’ll get flamed but I’m not surprised Maclin has taken him under his wing. Reading his quotes it sounds like they have a lot in common personality wise. I remember Maclin as a rookie coughing the ball up on kick returns in the preseason and Reid screaming at him while the camera was on both of them as the game went to commercial. Maclin turns his head and with his mouth piece hanging out if his mouth turns his back to the screaming Reid and rolls his eyes. Reading the quotes above he just sounds like a punk that’s a little to full of himself as apposed to reading Mathews quotes. I guess as long as he doesn’t drop to the ground as soon as he sees contact like Maclin does I could get last the lack of humility.

    • Bullwinkle

      Both Maclin and Huff seem like hard workers who put the team first. The block that Huff put on the Texas player in the video is amazing. Chip Kelly is not one to put up with cocky players with “me first” attitudes, as we have learned. There is nothing wrong with being a little cocky as long as you are doing your best for the team.

      • Loke1988

        Like I said as long as he plays physical unlike Maclin I don’t care to much about the lack of humility.

    • http://www.corcommunity.com/ Kelce’s Beard

      Reading the quotes above he just sounds like a punk that’s a little to full of himself

      man, I know the feeling….just washed over me reading that comment

    • Eagledelphia

      What did you possibly see up there that Huff said that made you think he is a punk who is full of himself?

      • Loke1988

        Re read all of the Huff quotes then compare them to all the Mathews quotes up until now. Two different types of people.

  • anon

    Do CBs even play defense in these clips? More a track show than anything else. Might take a bit to learn about press man.

  • UncleCarm

    That comment by Zach Berman was the first reference to Jason Phillips that I’ve seen this summer on these pages. Is he still with the team? If so, he must not be standing out to Sheil and Tim because they haven’t mentioned him. Does anyone know if he’s still around and if so, how he’s doing out there?

    • MagatBrackendale

      On July 29, 2013, Phillips tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in the Eagles’ first training camp of the preseason.

      This is all I could find on him.

  • JofreyRice

    ah, worst case scenario he’s just a minor bust from the third round that helps Kelly realize he needs to lay off the former Ducks. Best case, this is just the learning curve, and he contributes some.

    • peteike

      agree, Im not sold yet and ya catch the ball first then worry about standing out in games more than practice. There are guys who do step up though come game time, hope hes one of them.

      • Nailed it!

        Guys, he is a third round receiver! Receivers traditionally take longer to make an impact and you are skeptical after the first WEEK of training camp! Wow, lets ease up on the kid! Step back and breathe boys… Perspective.

        • aub32

          There are people that need to calm down in the other direction. Like you said, 3rd round WR, yet some people already expect him to take Maclin’s job next season.

          • peteike

            its not really about getting ahead of ourselves, I always include a caveat of its still early or he could step up in games. Its just something to talk about and were only going on what we have seen.

        • MagatBrackendale

          “Just how far into the season are we? November? Or second week of training camp?”

          Posted this a couple of days ago.

  • TNA

    Did DirtyWaters see this post?

    Here’s what he wrote last night (10:39 PM EST) in response to the “back to the future” note Tim wrote yesterday afternoon.

    Can we get a wake up call tomorrow with video showing Huff’s collegiate highlights ?

    That’s what I call customer service. Either that or DirtyWaters was working on compiling Huff’s youtube videos last night…

    • Kleptolia

      I was thinking the exact same thing. Tim and Sheil are two of the best I’ve seen as far as listening to readers is concerned.

  • peteike

    Do we really need the versatility of Brad Smith? man, that guy does nothing for me even though hes a great athlete. I just dont really care much for guys who do a bit of everything, much rather have solid players at their position. Sure, Ill be excited when he comes in to take snaps and do a read option scramble for 15 yds but he better excel at WR for it to be worth it. Just reading about Benn made me think of that, still not too sold on Maehl but I guess maybe Smith isnt so bad when compared. I think Benn needs some more time to recover from that knee is my guess, almost always takes til the 2nd year to get back to full speed (AP exception). He just doesnt have that time so he has to step up.

    • http://www.corcommunity.com/ Kelce’s Beard

      to be fair, Smith has been by far the better pro player to date. Benn is always a “if only….” guy, Maehl helped translate in the system and provide depth; Smith came in late in the year and has earned accolades from Kelly and teammates for his ST play.

      I mean, for a 5th/6th WR, isn’t that about all you can ask for? great ST play?

      • peteike

        ya I suppose but I always want that younger guy who flashes super potential. Even a Pratt would feel like a better option

        • aub32

          There’s nothing wrong with keeping solid players that you know what they are. Every player isn’t going to have breakout superstar potential. That’s just unrealistic thinking.

        • http://www.corcommunity.com/ Kelce’s Beard

          not sure who that guy is. I like Pratt as much as anyone, but let’s see him last a few years in the league and, you know, actually perform.
          If Coop or Maclin went down during the season, who’s our next guy up outside? Do you really want it to be a rookie or UDFA, or a guy like Smith?

          • peteike

            at that point were probably not going anywhere in a season so Id rather see the upside. Of course it depends on where you are record wise but I get it, I just dont like it.

          • peteike

            was thinking Coop and Maclin going down were not going anywhere. If one of them does, theres a few guys, even rooks who step in. Wow it is thin isnt it.

          • dnabrice

            Whoever blocks better for Shady!!!

  • Kleptolia

    I have to say: I said last week that I’m not as high on Boykin as others are. However, he seems to be improving over last year rather than staying static or regressing.
    I misjudged his talent. I was wrong. He’s a great corner.

  • Nailed it!

    Are you kidding me? What team in the NFL would be good if three of their top 5 receivers got injured??? Anyone? That is right every team would struggle.

  • Ty

    thin at WR? I don’t know about all that. mac-attack, coop, ertz, celek, sproles, all are pretty good recovers. I hear Mathews is pretty good, and I think huff will pan out. I believe that is a pretty good bunch. I wouldn’t say thin we just don’t have that stand out WR that other teams have but as a group they are pretty good I think and there is some young talent that will probably produce someone that will see action on Sundays.

    • dnabrice

      WR, yes. Receivers, no.

      • Ty

        see I kinda look past positions because it really doesn’t matter who is catching it as long as it is being caught. like if a rb/te/slot guy can get open deep and make a catch I would rather be thin at wr and have someone to get the job done down the field then have really good wideouts but not run game and or big body’s to make catches. (gotta lump slot guys in as non-wide receivers because they are not out wide unless its like a certain “package” or formations or you got trips or twins out to the same side, but then technically they wouldn’t be in the slot anyway.) what decides that players are what positions anyway? tight ends are always linning up in the slot or wide same for rb’s like sproles, then in wildcat situations even qbs can line up wide. when there are 2 rbs or a rb and a TE in the backfield is one a full back? but we don’t even have a fullback on our roaster. I don’t even want to think about defense. we cant be too literal about positions I think that’s coach Kelly’s mindset anyway that’s why he likes people who can do a lot of things. the only real roleplayers Kelly want are kickers and punters and maybe long snappers. I bet kellys dream is to find a guy that can kick and punt, and a good lineman or even TE or LB to be the longsnapper.

  • MagatBrackendale

    Is this just another “media” member with another dig about getting rid of Jackson?
    Gonzalez, I mean.