Eagles Need Not Look Outside the Organization to Replace Jeremy Maclin

Eagles Need Not Look Outside the Organization to Replace Jeremy Maclin

Given the terrible luck that’s befallen Jeremy Maclin, it’s not surprising many fans and some in the media immediately looked to the pool of free agents or racked their brains over potential trades to unearth a solution for the sudden void that was created in the Eagles’ offense. The simple fact of the matter is that won’t be necessary.

There really is no good reason or even need at all for the front office to go outside the organization to find Maclin’s replacement. The offense was already going to be more reliant on multiple tight ends and a strong ground attack, the likely targets to replace Maclin are not very strong for the most part in the first place, and it’s not as if there is any expectation the Birds win a Super Bowl this year anyway.

The point about a more tight end/running back-centric offense is a logical place to begin. Any other season, on almost any other team in the league, Maclin’s injury would be devastating. It’s a huge blow to the Eagles for sure, and we don’t mean to minimize that, but it’s not as if the wide receiver position was building up to be the focal point of Chip Kelly’s offense.

The Eagles have a fleet of running backs and tight ends practically any general manager in the NFL would be jealous of. If Maclin’s absence means a few extra touches for LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown, nobody is going to mind. If it means more two and three tight-end sets with Brent Celek, James Casey, and Zach Ertz creating mismatches down the middle of the field, it’s hard to find the flaw in that.

GM Howie Roseman spoke to how personnel-driven Kelly’s approach is prior to Sunday’s practice at the Linc, almost confirming Maclin’s absence will likely result in increased roles for backs and tight ends (transcribed by PhiladelphiaEagles.com).

"When you met with Chip originally, he's much more personnel-driven than even I thought just from observing him at Oregon," said Roseman. "It's going to be based on the guys who are producing at a high level and if that's the tight end position, they'll get more reps, if it's the receiver position, if it's the running back group. I think that's yet to be determined since we're so early in camp."

It’s not like wide receiver is a total wasteland on this roster, either. Obviously the Eagles still have DeSean Jackson, who figures to be as dangerous as ever in the new scheme. Either Damaris Johnson or Jason Avant – maybe both – will be a threat running out of the slot. Then there are in-house options to fill in on the outside opposite DeSean as well.

Arrelious Benn was a second-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2010, catching 30 passes for 440 yards and three scores in his second season there before he was derailed by injuries and shipped to Philly. Riley Cooper set career highs last year with 23-248-3 in a limited role. And the slew of bubble players is headlined by Ifeanyi Momah, the 6-7 giant who runs a lightning 4.4 40.

Granted all of Maclin’s probable replacements have either been underwhelming during their short careers, or are unproven entirely. Having said that, this unfortunate situation provides the coaching staff an opportunity to find out exactly what it has in these young players. It’s not like the kids could do a lot worse than most of what’s available to sign.

The singular free agent of intrigue is Brandon Lloyd, who hauled in 74 balls for 911 yards and four touchdowns with the Patriots just last season. Outside of that, other possibilities leave a lot to be desired – Laurent Robinson is the best of the rest. Some of the suggestions are frankly absurd – namely Chad Johnson, Randy Moss, or Terrell Owens.

Chip doesn’t want the circus coming to town when he’s trying to instill a new attitude in the Eagles’ locker room, so you can forget Johnson, Moss, and Owens – none of whom can still go at this point in their careers to begin with. And there really is no reason to add other aging veterans who were never all that good, like Robinson, or Austin Collie, or Jabar Gaffney, or… why? Give one good reason why.

The only person you can reasonably make a case for is Lloyd, and he admittedly looks like an upgrade over what the Eagles have. At the same time, bringing him in prevents guys like Benn, Cooper, and Momah from getting a serious look – why would anybody want that? Again, this season is not Super Bowl or bust.

If the team was coming off of a solid season and looking to make some noise with a deep playoff run this January, then it would be a different story. The Eagles are trying to build for the future though, a future Brandon Lloyd will have no part in. He may make them better right away, but his presence doesn’t help them beyond 2013. Instead it only serves to hinder their progress, something Roseman also seems to realize (via Reuben Frank).

“You want your young players to grow and develop, and that’s why you keep young players on your roster. You look at the good teams in this league, that’s what they do with their players. They develop them, they groom them, then they give them an opportunity.”

“So sitting here, it’s not even August, we have a lot of reps to evaluate our team, and it doesn’t mean we’re not going to look for ways to improve. But at the end of the day, you have to show confidence in the players that you brought in.”

The Eagles lost a very good receiver, one there is no clear-cut replacement for, but now is not the time to make panicky decisions. There is plenty of competition for Maclin’s spot without adding has-beens and never-weres to the mix, or even rentals that might turn out to be only a marginal upgrade.

As Roseman more or less put it, there is a reason those guys are all free agents, and the players on the Eagles’ roster are at camp.

“That's what [training camp] is for, the competition, and that's why we brought in people to compete."

Stick to the plan. There’s no good reason not to.

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.  -- Dustin Hopkins kicked a 37-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter for his fifth of the game and the Washington Redskins avoid a near-disastrous 0-3 start with a 29-27 win over the penalty- and error-prone New York Giants on Sunday.

Kirk Cousins threw touchdown passes of 44 yards to DeSean Jackson and 55 to Jamison Crowder as the banged-up Redskins (1-2) handed new coach Ben McAdoo his first loss with the Giants (2-1).

Su'a Cravens ended the Giants' final drive with an interception in New York territory. It was Eli Manning's second pick of the quarter, with the other coming in the end zone by Quinton Dunbar after New York got to the Redskins 15 on a big play by Odell Beckham Jr.

This was a wild NFC East matchup that see-sawed the entire second half after Washington rallied from a 21-9 deficit (see full recap).

Prescott, Cowboys rout Bears on SNF
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without injured quarterback Tony Romo over three seasons before the rookie fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia rookie Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals in NFL history.

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox (see full recap).

Vikings stop Newton, snap Panthers' home win streak
CHARLOTTE, N.C.  -- The Minnesota Vikings keep finding ways to overcome injuries --and keep finding ways to win football games.

Sam Bradford threw a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph, Marcus Sherels returned a punt for a score and the Vikings snapped the Carolina Panthers' 14-game home winning streak 22-10 on Sunday.

The Vikings put the clamps on Cam Newton, intercepting the league's reigning MVP three times and getting eight sacks, one of those resulting in a safety by Danielle Hunter. The eight sacks were the second-most ever against Newton.

"We have a great team -- the best team I have been a part of," said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who had three sacks. "We come from every area on the field and we get sacks."

Said Newton: "They were dictating to us after they got the momentum."

The Vikings improved 3-0 despite losing running back Adrian Peterson and offensive tackle Matt Kalil to injuries last week. They lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason (see full recap).

Bills bounce back with win over Cardinals
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.  -- LeSean McCoy scored twice and safety Aaron Williams returned a botched field-goal snap 53 yards for a touchdown in leading the Buffalo Bills to a 33-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor also scored on a 20-yard run at a time the Rex Ryan-coached Bills spent the past week taking the brunt of criticism after opening the season 0-2.

The win also came on the heels of Ryan firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman and replacing him with running backs coach Anthony Lynn.

McCoy scored on 24- and 5-yard runs, and finished with 110 yards rushing after combining for just 117 in his first two games. Taylor had 76 yards rushing, including a 49-yarder, the longest by a quarterback in team history (see full recap).

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Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

On his way to the locker room following his team's stunning 34-3 victory over the Steelers, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson reacted, well, like you probably did.

Pederson had to be surprised by what had just transpired. After all, this wasn't the Browns or the Bears. This was the Steelers, who entered the game with the second-best odds behind New England, per Bovada, of winning the Super Bowl (the Patriots were first). 

And the Eagles didn't just beat them. They clobbered them.

But minutes later, when Pederson met the media for his postgame press conference, he tried his best to act like it was no big thing.

“I told the team way back in OTAs that it just takes a little bit of belief," Pederson said. "Belief in themselves. Trust the process. Believe in the coaches and the coaches believe in one another. That’s what they did tonight. 

"Am I surprised? A little. But at the same time, I know that locker room, I know those guys and I know what they are building. By no means have we accomplished anything yet. The season is still extremely young. But what they did tonight just proves that they are coming together as a football team.”

Yeah, yeah. Sorry, Doug. It's OK to be surprised. Scratch that. Make that stunned. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. But now? Forget that. 

At least for the next two weeks. The Eagles are on their bye week and don't play again until Oct. 9 at Detroit. 

“It is still a young season, only three games. This was a good benchmark," Pederson said. "That’s a good football team, the Steelers are a great football team. They are going to be there at the end, they always are. Coach (Mike) Tomlin always has those guys ready to play. 

"But for our guys, it is just a little glimpse of that belief that I have been saying since the spring and summer. If they just do their jobs, I just feel that good things can happen. We just protect each other in that dressing room in there and keep coming to work everyday.”

Pederson is the only head coach in team history to win each of his first three games. It's only the ninth time the Eagles have started 3-0.

And of course, a big reason they've done so is their prodigy quarterback Carson Wentz, who became only the second rookie in team history to record a 300-yard passing game (Nick Foles is the other).

More impressively, Wentz now has attempted 102 straight passes without an interception, the longest streak ever begin an NFL career (per ESPN). Dallas'  Dak Prescott is at 99 after the Cowboys beat up the Bears.

But don't ask Pederson to admit he's amazed by Wentz or the fact he had the presence of mind to make plays like the riveting 73-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles (much more on that here).

“You know, you just put on his college film. Just watch him," Pederson said. "We exhausted his college tape and those were the plays that he made at North Dakota State. That play tonight was just a tremendous play by both he and Darren Sproles. Those are the types of things that we know he can do. He just keeps gaining confidence every single week.”

As does the defense, which kept one of the league's most potent offenses out of the end zone

"They just weren’t going to be denied," Pederson said. "They just weren’t going to bow their necks. They weren’t going to let them in the endzone. It just came down to our will versus theirs and I was just so happy with the way the guys played. Just a great team effort.”