Green-Beckham believes Eagles haven't seen his best
The receiver still faces an uphill battle to remain with the team.
Dorial Green-Beckham can do the math. Last year the Eagles kept five wide receivers for most of the season. Typically, six have made the team. The Eagles even squeezed seven receivers onto the roster at the start of the 2009 season. But even if they find it necessary to retain as many again, Green-Beckham could have a difficult time making the cut.
And if it's just five or six, the odds are steep.
Four new faces were added this offseason - free agents Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith and rookies Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson - and each would seemingly be guaranteed to make the team. Jordan Matthews, despite trade rumors this spring, is also almost certain to be on the roster.
That would leave Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor - last season's starting outside receivers - to presumably battle for the final spot. And unlike the latter receiver, the former wasn't a first-round draft pick of the Eagles, and he won't cost the team a dime against the salary cap were he to be released or traded.
"I'm looking at the numbers," Green-Beckham said Friday, "but I really haven't had the chance to actually get the [opportunities] just getting there last year. I'm just getting the feel for playing with this team."
In other words, Green-Beckham believes that the Eagles haven't seen him at his full capabilities. Acquired in mid-August just before the preseason opener, he had to learn a new offense on the fly. A few weeks later, just before the season opener, he had to adjust to a new starting quarterback in Carson Wentz - one with whom he had hardly practiced.
But the Eagles sent a message to not only Green-Beckham but to the entire receiving corps this offseason. If the team thought that he or Agholor was primed for a giant leap it would have never invested as much - $14.4 million in cap numbers and fourth- and fifth-round draft picks - in the position.
"I just knew it was going to be a lot of competition in the room hearing that," Green-Beckham said when asked for his initial impression of the Jeffery and Smith additions. "I looked at it like I could take advantage of those guys and use them as resources."
Green-Beckham hasn't been out there as often as he was last year. While he's still taking the occasional repetition with Wentz and the first team, most of his snaps during spring workouts have come with backup quarterback Nick Foles and the second-team offense. During practice Tuesday, he saw just a few passes from Wentz and one sailed through his hands.
"I don't really get a lot of opportunities at practice," Green-Beckham said, "but I feel like everything on my end is going pretty good."
Competition sometimes brings out the best in certain players. For many years, football came rather easily to Green-Beckham. In high school, he was bigger and faster than most - so much that some considered him the No. 1 prospect in the nation.
In college, he had his travails, both on the field and off. But his first two years at Missouri followed a promising arc. He caught 28 passes for 395 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman and followed that up with 59 catches for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore.
He left school early, and was considered a first-round talent, but concerns about several transgressions in college and his emotional readiness dropped him into the second round, where the Titans selected him. Green-Beckham put up encouraging numbers as a rookie - 32 catches for 549 yards and four touchdowns - and finished sixth in the NFL in yards per catch (17.2 avg.).
But he wasn't given the chance to take advantage of his first full offseason. Some might say he had every opportunity, as the Titans made clear after they sent him to Philly in exchange for reserve tackle Dennis Kelly. Coach Mike Mularkey had indicated that Green-Beckham's work ethic wasn't what it should be.
If true, or if he hasn't rectified that issue, it doesn't matter how much athleticism and skill the 6-foot-5, 237-pound receiver brings to the field. In the NFL, the best players are typically the hardest workers.
Green-Beckham isn't just trying to make the Eagles. Thirty-one other teams are keeping tabs on the 24-year- old. If it doesn't work here, it could work somewhere else. Stranger things have happened. Injuries occur. Trades get done. And fifth-round draft picks, like Gibson, aren't assured roster spots.
"I'm just going to approach it with a positive attitude," Green-Beckham said. "I know that doesn't change anything for me, but I just love the competition."
Green-Beckham could also benefit from the new bodies, in particular Jeffery, who uses his size advantage as well as any receiver in the league. He said that the 6-3, 217-pound former Bear has helped with how to run certain routes and use his frame to shield defenders from the ball.
A more notable addition, as least in how it relates to Green-Beckham, could be Mike Groh, who replaced Greg Lewis as receivers coach. Groh recruited Green-Beckham when he was at Alabama. The former Bears and Rams assistant is vocal at practice - much more so than the relatively inexperienced Lewis.
"Playing with him right now, just watching him at practice, the way he's coaching me at practice, I just know he cares about his players," Green-Beckham said. "All he wants is the best of them."
Did the Eagles get the best of Green-Beckham last year? He caught four more passes than he did as a rookie, but his yards per catch average (10.9) and touchdowns (two) dropped. During a stretch in the second half it appeared Green-Beckham and Wentz were developing chemistry. He caught 15 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown from Weeks 10 to 12.
The numbers weren't spellbinding, but there was improvement. But he missed the following week with an abdomen injury and caught only three passes in the final three games. By season's end, the Eagles' group of receivers were public enemy No. 1.
Green-Beckham, who said he's going to do a better job of asking questions of his coaches and teammates this year, said he has been able to tune out the criticism.
"I don't really listen to that type of stuff," Green-Beckham said, "because I know what's best for me.
"And I know what I'm capable of doing."
The Eagles would love to have another difficult decision to make.