Patrick Causey, on Twitter @pcausey3
When the Eagles traded backup lineman Dennis Kelly to the Titans in exchange for the talented but much-maligned Dorial Green-Beckham, expectations were low. Characterized as a classic low risk, high reward move, the Eagles took a shot in the dark that a change of scenery would help DGB maximize his potential.
At first blush, DGB’s production has been underwhelming, catching 11 passes for 131 yards and zero touchdowns. Spread out over 5 games, that yields a pedestrian average of 2.2 catches and 26.2 yards per game. But prior to last week, DGB’s production had steadily improved, a sign that the coaching staff was gaining confidence in the second year receiver:
Last week would have been DGB’s most productive as an Eagle but for a block in the back penalty on Wendell Smallwood that negated DGB’s impressive 38 yard catch. While most focused on how well Carson Wentz evaded pressure, kept his eyes down field and threw an accurate pass from an impossible arm angle, DGB was equally impressive, breaking off his route to provide Wentz an open target, high pointing the ball and breaking a tackle to gain another 20+ yards:
If that play stands, DGB would have ended the day with 2 catches for 61 yards and a 30.5 average yards per catch. Not record setting, but again a sign of improvement.
DGB’s most enticing asset remains his physical profile: standing at 6’5, 237 lbs and running a 4.49 40, he dwarfs every cornerback and safety in the league and even rivals the size of most linebackers. DGB has proven adept at using that size to his advantage. Against the Lions, DGB bulldozed linebacker Tahir Whitehead, who is 6’2, 241 lbs, with a stiff arm that would have made Bo Jackson proud:
Green-Beckham is by no means a complete receiver, something the coaching staff will readily admit. He cannot run a complete route tree — far from it — and has had problems with drops and consistency:
While Green-Beckham’s 61% catch rate is nothing to write home about, it is on par with some of the best receivers in the game, including Julio Jones (62%), Amari Cooper (60%), Mike Evans (53%), Antonio Brown (64%) and DeAndre Hopkins (54%). I know, I know, sample size! But DGB has improved significantly over last season, when he caught only 51% of the balls thrown his way. So we should be encouraged by his improvement thus far.
With Nelson Agholor and Josh Huff failing to validate their draft position, it’s time for the Eagles to expand DGB’s role in the offense. They can do this in a number of ways.
For starters, they can continue to get Green-Beckham the ball in space. Despite his size, Green-Beckham has done well creating yards after the catch, with his 67 YAC ranking third on the team. The Eagles have targeted Green-Beckham most often with wide receiver screens, where his size and speed can turn a quick 2 yard catch into 10+ yards.
But the Eagles can also start utilizing DGB as their primary deep threat. As we saw with Wentz’s first career interception, Agholor is not excelling in that role: he lacks elite speed and isn’t strong enough to fight off more physical defenders. Green-Beckham, on the other hand, has already shown that he is capable of filling this role. He’s caught two deep passes from Wentz so far this year, both on Wentz’s favorite route, the deep in. Last week was a 23 yard catch on 1st and 20, and he made a similar catch against the Steelers during their week 3 win:
Defenses aren’t respecting Agholor as a deep threat, but they would have to respect Green-Beckham given his size. Sending Green-Beckham on a few go routes per game could open up the underneath routes for Zach Ertz (who needs to step it up), Jordan Matthews and Darren Sproles and take pressure off running back Ryan Mathews, who is averaging a woeful 3.9 yards per carry on the year.
The Eagles also need to work Green-Beckham into the redzone offense. Last season, almost 10% of DGB’s catches were for touchdowns, thanks in large part to his size, strength and ability to high point the ball on fade routes. DGB flashed that potential early in the preseason, but curiously has only gotten one such opportunity during the regular season (a pass which Carson Wentz under threw):
The Eagles rank 20th in the NFL in redzone touchdown efficiency, scoring touchdowns on only 52.63% of its drives, according to TeamRankings.com. While the Vikings have arguably the league’s best defense, cornerback Xavier Rhodes is 6’1 and Terrance Newman is 5’10. In a game where points will likely be hard to come by, it makes sense for the Eagles to take advantage of the clear size mismatch that DGB provides.
Green-Beckham has a long way to go before he can become a legitimate number two receiver. But that shouldn’t stop the Eagles from taking advantage of what he does well now, especially given the lack of weapons they have at their disposal.
In case you missed it: I broke down the good, the bad and the ugly on the Eagles loss to the Redskins.