Eagles Wake-Up Call: Huff’s New Outlook
There were times when the frustration brought Josh Huff to tears.
It started with the shoulder injury he sustained in mid-August during an exhibition game against the Patriots that lingered well into the regular season. He was behind and he was pressing and he admittedly developed a bit of a bad attitude. All the violent pedaling got him next to nowhere because the bike chain refused to catch.
“There were actually times in practice when I would cry because I know the type of plays I can make, I know the type of teammate I can be but it just wasn’t there,” he said during a phone conversation with Birds 24/7. “I would go to [Jeremy Maclin, who served as a mentor] and cry and he would simply tell me, ‘Just be patient. Wait your turn. I know what type of talent you have, the coaches know what type of talent you have, just be patient and continue to work.'”
The message delivered by receivers coach Bob Bicknell during his exit interview and later by Chip Kelly was fairly simple and along the same lines.
“Just be yourself. I had gotten away from that my rookie year, I had gotten away from being myself and just playing the game. I had gotten away from loving the game. I just wanted to do so much as a rookie,” he said. “I wasn’t able to really perform at my highest because I was trying so hard, and that’s what led to mistakes and dropped balls. My whole thing going into this season is just be myself, don’t force anything and just let the game come to you and when my number gets called, make plays and do what I can to help my teammates and my team get in a better position to win.”
Huff got away from football for a little while at the start of the offseason. He went on a cruise with his wife and gave himself a short time to process and evaluate 2014 before flipping it forward. But it wasn’t long before he was back at it. He returned to his hometown of Houston to work with his cousin, Rischad Whitfield, who goes by the nickname “The Footwork King” and has a growing clientele list that includes Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders.
“Last year, Josh had a problem getting off press coverage at the line,” said Whitfield. “When he was lining up out wide, defensive backs were jamming him and it was taking him forever to get off the line.
“I’ve been working on a lot of press releases. I’ve been working on a lot of different footwork moves for Josh that can help him get open because once he gets open and gets that separation from the DB, everything else is history because he is so explosive and fast.”
Does his body look any different compared to this time last year?
“Oh, god,” said Whitfield. “He is shredded. Shredded. Weight-wise he is still around the same weight [between 200 and 207] but he is a lot more explosive.”
Huff has since returned to Philadelphia and is working out at the NovaCare facility. He has been in contact with new quarterback Sam Bradford about setting up some throwing sessions to “get the rhythm going.”
Huff ended his rookie season with just eight catches [on 18 targets] for 98 yards. He had four dropped passes according to Pro Football Focus and gave up a key fumble near the goal line in a loss to the Cardinals back in October. He flashed on a couple occasions — like during this 44-yard catch and run against the Cowboys — but overall it was an underwhelming start to his pro career.
“The biggest thing with him is getting hurt in that preseason game that kind of put him behind everybody,” said Kelly. “And then when we got him back – I think it was the San Francisco game – we’d already played four or five games. So he was playing a little bit of catch-up. It was just kind of a freak thing on that kickoff return, but [he] contributed really well for us. He’s an unbelievable special teams player. So we already know he’s established there. Now it’s just getting a little bit more consistent and he’ll get an opportunity now with Mac gone. I just think like everybody you just hope that Year 1 to Year 2 jump – we know he has the physical skills and the mindset to do it, it’s just staying healthy and getting an opportunity to do it.”
Huff reached out to Maclin after the veteran receiver decided to sign in Kansas City. He thanked him for everything he had taught him, and told him he’d carry it with him throughout his career. How did Maclin respond?
“His message to me was he knows what I can do, go out there and do it and he’ll see me on the other side,” said Huff. “And the other side would be the Pro Bowl. And that’s my individual goal because I know that I can reach that and know that I have the potential to get to that level.
“Most importantly, it’s not about individual stats to me, it’s more about a team-oriented goal and that’s to win the Super Bowl. In order to do that, I have to do everything I can in my willpower to make myself a better me for my teammates.”
Huff said he’s unsure exactly where Kelly will line he and Jordan Matthews up this season now that they’ll have more prominent roles. But he sounded confident that this crew would be up for the challenge.
“Of course we don’t have that Jeremy Maclin or that DeSean Jackson name on the receiver roster so people are already downplaying our skills and looking to go somewhere else to find those big-name receivers but that’s not the case at all,” said Huff.
“We’re anxious and were excited to just prove to everybody that even though we don’t have that big name, we’re still accountable and we’re still lethal when it comes to making plays downfield.”
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WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The Eagles continue to look at defensive back prospects.
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) April 1, 2015
Marcus Mariota does not plan on attending the NFL Draft. More from PFT.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, Mariota has elected to remain home in Hawaii instead of attending the draft in person in Chicago.
Per Schefter, Mariota feels it’s important for him, personally and culturally, to go through the experience at home.
Winston has elected to remain at home as well because his grandmother has type-2 diabetes and cannot travel to the event. With Mariota also electing not to make the trip, it could very likely mean the top two selections in the draft will not be in attendance to shake hands and provide a photo opportunity with Roger Goodell.
We’ll round up all the latest draft news and notes.