Mike Groh was announced as the Eagles’ new wide receivers coach Monday. Groh, who spent 2016 as the Rams' wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator, replaces the outgoing Greg Lewis.
Unless substantial reinforcements arrive this offseason, Groh may well be taking over the most difficult job on the Philadelphia staff. Coaxing improvement out of the Eagles receivers proved too tall an order for Lewis’ first year as a receivers coach in the NFL.
In 2016, Jordan Matthews was the Eagles only receiver to top 400 yards receiving. Matthews finished his third season with 804 yards and three touchdowns, after posting totals of 997 and eighttouchdownsin 2015. After collecting 549 yards as a rookie in Tennessee, Dorial Green-Beckham had just one catch in each of the final three games and finished with 392 yards. On the entire team, only undrafted rookie Paul Turner, who had eight receptions, averaged more than 11 yards per catch.
The Rams, despite all of their troubles this season, saw the opposite results from their wide receivers under Groh. Kenny Britt, a free agent this offseason oft mentioned as one of the Eagles' targets, had the first 1,000 yard season in his eight year career in 2016. Brian Quick set a career high in yardage and receptions and Tavon Austin did the same.
Groh spent just one season in Los Angeles, before that he was in Chicago for three years where he coached another Eagles target: Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery’s rookie season was in 2012, before Groh arrived, and he started six of 10 games, finishing with 367 yards and three scores. The next season, Groh’s first in Chicago, Jeffery exploded onto the national scene with his best season: 89 receptions for 1,421 yards. He and Brandon Marshall both made the Pro Bowl.
His track record with receivers isn’t limited to the pros. Before Chicago he was wide receivers coach for Alabama, where he oversaw Amari Cooper’s freshman season with the Tide. Cooper had exactly 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns as a true freshman. Two years later he was the fourth pick in the NFL draft. Football fans have all been privy to what the Raiders wideout has done since.
Groh may soon have some receivers who can replicate these resumes on his new team. Jeffery himself is set to hit free agency and become the biggest name at wide receiver on the market. After a season that finished with him catching passes from Matt Barkley, the idea of becoming Carson Wentz’ go-to security blanket might be pretty appealing. Britt is also set to become available.
"Ideally in free agency, you're signing 26-, 27-year-old guys who can be part of the core," Eagles VP of football operations Howie Roseman said earlier this offseason when asked about signing a wide receiver."Unfortunately, teams are doing a good job of locking those guys up, as well.
"So we have to try to balance that and bring in guys that fit what we're trying to do. [We have to] understand that there's no way to do everything in one offseason and just look at each situation individually."
While there are other positions of need as well, few would criticize the Eagles for selecting a wide receiver with the 14th or 15th pick in the first round. Clemson’s Mike Williams, fresh off a tremendous national championship game, and Western Michigan’s Corey Davis lead the draft prospects at the position, and Washington’s John Ross has speed to make fans remember DeSean Jackson’s heyday. And then there’s always the chance Jackson could return to the midnight green as a free agent.
Groh has done more in the NFL than the Eagles' previous receivers coach. Here’s hoping he’ll have more to work with, as well.