New Eagles WR Chris Givens looking to prove he's more than deep threat


For a number of reasons, the Eagles were a logical free-agent destination for Chris Givens. 

There's a young, largely unproven receiving corps in which there's opportunity to earn playing time. There's reuniting with quarterback Sam Bradford, with whom Givens enjoyed his most productive season in the NFL as members of the St. Louis Rams.

Yet Givens also understands now that none of that is going to matter if he doesn't take it upon himself to improve and become a complete wide receiver.

The fifth-year veteran is known for one thing and pretty much one thing only — possessing the ability to stretch the field. He realizes that, and in order to capitalize on this opportunity with the Eagles, he realizes he must show he's more than just a deep threat.

"That's my whole mindset, to just come out and prove everybody wrong and to show I can do more than go deep," said Givens. "That's the biggest thing I want to prove, that I can be a complete receiver, play every down and just run all of the routes and do the things I need to do to be great."

Givens could make excuses. He could blame injuries to his starting quarterbacks — first Bradford in St. Louis, then Joe Flacco in Baltimore last season — for derailing his career. He could argue he wasn't always put in the best positions to succeed.

The 26-year-old wideout is taking no such tack. Givens acknowledges the reason he has nobody to blame but himself for his inability to build off of his first two seasons in the league.

"I think I handcuffed myself," Givens admits. "Being young and having some success early, I thought that was always gonna happen, and I didn't necessarily work as hard as I worked in previous offseasons.

"I kind of just took an approach where I had to look at myself in the mirror and be like, 'Alright Chris, this is what you need to do, and if you don't, then you're not gonna get what you want and deserve out of life.' So I just put everything behind me and attacked these last two offseasons head on and did all the things I know I need to do to be great."

A fourth-round draft pick out of Wake Forest in 2012, Givens quickly gained a rapport with Bradford, catching 42 passes for 698 yards and three touchdowns his rookie year. His follow-up campaign wasn't too shabby, either, finishing with 34 catches for 569 yards.

Givens' was a non-factor in an anemic Rams offense his final two seasons with the club, however, hauling in 12 receptions total. While the injuries to Bradford and the signal-caller's subsequent departure were a factor, the wideout was taught a harsh lesson by NFL defenders as well.

"It was probably the toughest thing I had to learn, but I learned it the hard way, and that's on the field," said Givens. "Once you go back and reevaluate yourself and really be critical of yourself, then I feel like you're gonna come to crossroads and either be what everybody says or I'm gonna go out and do what I know I can do."

"On the other side, they get paid too, so once they realize 'Okay, this guy can only do this,' then they start playing me different. Then it's like, 'What am I gonna do now?'"

2015 was a rebound year of sorts for Givens, who posted 19 receptions for 346 yards and a touchdown on a one-year deal with the Ravens. It was enough for the Eagles to sign Givens to a one-year deal and let him compete against an unsettled group of receivers that includes Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff, Rueben Randle and T.J. Graham.

With his head on straight and reunited with Bradford, the 26-year-old sounds hopeful his resurgence can continue.

"We spent a few years together, and as much as we meet and do things like that, you just get a feel for a guy, what kind of balls he throws, how he throws the ball, what he expects, what he likes and what he doesn't like," said Givens of his relationship with Bradford. "It's kind of like riding a bike because I came into the league with Sam and I feel like I'm blessed to be with a quarterback like him."

An improved Bradford could go a long way as well.

Givens feels as though he's seen a difference in Bradford from a leadership standpoint since the last time the two were teammates. What has not changed, however, are the quarterback's precision, intelligence and arm strength — the latter of which Givens admits plays to his strength.

"I've seen growth in him. He's at a point where he's more assertive, he takes command of the huddle a little more, he's very comfortable and he has a mentality now where he's just ready to go out and prove everybody wrong.

"From an accuracy and an arm strength standpoint, there's not too many who can compete with him. Mentally, he's just so smart. He's so smart, he sees everything fast and he's just on it."

Ultimately, that bond with Bradford will only carry Givens so far with the Eagles. He needs to be a well-rounded receiver who can do more than take defensive backs by surprise every so often and get behind them with his speed. Givens needs to become the kind of complete receiver he discussed during minicamp if he's going to experience success similar to his first few years in the league.

"I'm just looking to bring a lot of big-play ability," said Givens. "I've also fine-tuned my game to where I can do a lot of other things.

"I pretty much can run every route on the route tree. I'm just looking to be somebody we can depend on week in and week out."

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