Five Tough Questions for Eagles Training Camp: Wide Receiver

Five Tough Questions for Eagles Training Camp: Wide Receiver

We continue our training camp preview by examining the Eagles’ wide receivers, where several high-profile players are fighting for jobs, and all of them are trying to find their way in a new offense.

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Does Jeremy Maclin deserve a contract extension?

Not yet he doesn’t. Let’s not put Jeremy Maclin on the first train out of town or anything, but he hasn’t exactly lived up the hype as one of the top receivers in the ’09 NFL Draft.

Maclin dropped to the Birds, who traded up to 19 to get him when many draftniks felt he was a top-10 pick. Now entering his fifth season however, we’re still waiting on the 25 year old to reach the next level. Maclin has never gone over 1,000 yards receiving for a season in his career, he’s only played all 16 games once, and quite simply he has done little to establish himself as more than a viable No. 2 to DJacc’s star.

At this point it’s probably fair to acknowledge some strange illness caused Maclin to lose body mass and miss a significant amount of practice time in the lead up to 2011, which just happened to come right on the heels of his best, almost Pro Bowl-caliber season – 70 receptions, 964 yards, and 10 touchdowns. To top it off the Eagles have been dysfunctional ever since, so it’s hard to tell if he ever made it all the way back.

Regardless, Maclin must approach this season as a lame duck, as he is deservedly on the final year of his rookie contract. Even if he actually is worth a big-money extension, the Eagles have a bit of an unknown situation at quarterback already, and unless one of them steps up this season, the franchise is likely several years away from contending anyway.

Without a doubt, Maclin will be monitored closely this season. If free agency started tomorrow though, it’s tough to say how much the Birds would be willing to invest the next time around. And if it's still unclear after this season, the franchise tag is always in play.

Can DeSean Jackson regain his All-Pro form from 2009?

This season may well present his best opportunity. When Jackson burst on to the scene as a rookie in 2008, opponents were devastated. But by the time he was finished racking up 1,146 yards and nine touchdowns receiving in ’09, defensive backs had seemingly seen all DJacc had to offer. Push the safeties back and take away the deep ball = problem solved.

That is somewhat of a simplistic way of looking at things. It’s not like 2010 was a lost season, as Jackson eclipsed 1,000 yards again, and very nearly did so again in ’11 even while he sulked over his contract. The big plays have stopped coming in bunches though, and the once-explosive receiver looks increasingly like a one-trick pony. By the time the 26 year old got his mind right and his contract situation settled, the Eagles’ offense was going extinct under Andy Reid.

Part of the problem is Jackson has a limited skill set compared to most wide receivers being that he’s only 5-10, 175 lbs. He’s not winning jump balls, and he’s not overpowering the coverage.

Yet this is where Chip Kelly comes in and potentially rejuvenates DeSean’s career. No longer will Jackson be relegated to the role of decoy, running sprints down the field on seemingly every play. Jackson can still go deep, but in the new scheme he’ll be put into situations where he can get the ball in space. There are said to be a higher number of short and intermediate routes, and he’ll even be lining up in the backfield with some frequency apparently.

If opponents are worrying about Jackson doing more underneath, it should make him more dangerous when he does go over the top, as safeties start creeping up toward the line of scrimmage again. No matter where he is getting the ball in his hands though, expect it to come his way in higher volumes.

What can we expect from Arrelious Benn?

Hard to predict. It’s fair to presume he will probably show up in the box score every week at least. Let’s not put an actual projection on it, but general manager Howie Roseman traded for Benn from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then immediately gave him a new contract. This is somebody who will likely be part of the game plan on Sundays.

In 2011, Benn had 30 catches for 441 yards and three touchdowns (roughly two receptions, 27 yards, 0.2 touchdowns per game), numbers he could at least match. Aside from Riley Cooper, the Eagles don’t really have many receivers with Benn’s size – 6-2, 225 – so it’s possible Chip Kelly sees him as a red zone weapon as well, perhaps more. No matter the details, his presence on the roster could spell trouble for the rest of the depth at wideout – one mainstay and another prospect in particular.

Is Jason Avant a lock to make the team?

I’m not so sure. Avant’s situation is something we may not have thought twice about before Chip Kelly started giving the seven-year veteran looks at the safety position. Sure, the head coach will chalk it up as just trying something different, but it’s not like we heard about LeSean McCoy lining up at middle linebacker, either.

At this point we can only surmise Avant’s job is very much in jeopardy. Besides the rather random tryout on defense, the Eagles did trade for Arrelious Benn during the offseason, even if it was only a sixth-round selection. They already have Damaris Johnson, who is younger, cheaper, and seems like the dynamic/athletic type that could be better suited for the slot role in an up-tempo offense. After Jackson and Maclin that leaves one roster spot remaining, and Riley Cooper also happens to play special teams – they could keep him.

Face it, Avant (30) is a dinosaur compared to the rest of the Eagles’ skill players. The club could do worse than somebody who’s hauled in no fewer than 587 yards in a season over the past four. Then again, those numbers aren’t exactly impossible to duplicate, either.

Does Ifeanyi Momah stand any chance at making the 53-man roster?

Minimal to zero. If six-foot-seven with a 4.45 40 time sounds too good to be true, well that’s because it almost certainly is.

If Jason Avant might be caught up in a numbers game, imagine what Momah has to overcome. Jackson and Maclin are mortal locks. Riley Cooper and Damaris Johnson (punt returns) contribute on special teams. The Eagles traded for Arrelious Benn during the offseason and immediately gave him a contract extension, so that looks fairly secure. Between those six players, at least two may have to disappear for Momah to pull down a job – and that's not even considering the rest of the competition.

Momah suffered a torn ACL at Boston College in 2011, causing him to go undrafted and largely overlooked for a full year until the Birds signed him as a free agent this winter. He seems to be healthy, but is also extremely raw, posting just 39 receptions during his collegiate career – so while the incredible size and speed make fans take notice, those qualities do not guarantee a quality wide receiver.

Best case scenario is the Eagles can stash Momah on their practice squad for a year, and he eventually becomes a weapon in Chip Kelly’s offense. However, the odds that he ever develops into an NFL player might be slim.

Andrew Kulp is a freelance writer covering Philadelphia sports for E-mail him at or follow him on Twitter.

The Eagles need a big-time wide receiver


The Eagles need a big-time wide receiver

I’ve been saying it since early 2000s: The Eagles will never, ever win a Super Bowl again until they go out and get a big-time wide receiver. 

The one year they had one -- 2004, with Terrell Owens -- they got to the Super Bowl. But they never got there earlier, with the likes of Na Brown, Todd Pinkston and James Thrash; nor later, when they blew it with T.O. and failed to land Big-Time Receivers like Roy Williams, Erik Moulds, Javon Walker, or Peerless Price. 

We face a similar situation today.  The Eagles are 4-2 and just beat the Vikings, the league’s last undefeated team. But the team’s lackluster receiving corps threatens to derail the season, and with it the crucial first year of Carson Wentz’s career. Missing out on the playoffs in their rookie year because of receivers who can’t catch the ball is the sort of thing that ruins young quarterbacks for life. 

Don’t make the same mistake again, Howie Roseman. Go out and get Alshon Jeffrey. Or Torrey Smith. Or better yet, Alshon Jeffrey AND Torrey Smith. I don’t care what it takes- and it’s not like the Eagles are ever having draft picks again anyway. 

Of course, none of this would be a problem if we’d traded for Anquan Boldin. I’ve wanted the Eagles to get Anquan Boldin for 10 years, and they never have- not even this year, when he was a free agent, and he went and signed with the Lions and helped beat us two weeks ago.  

So in conclusion: Do whatever it takes, Howie. Start a bidding war. Just keep offering #1 picks until the Bears or Niners say yes. 


In an event I’d have considered considerably less likely than either the prospect of a Cubs world championship or the election of a woman as president of the United States, Joel Embiid on Wednesday night played in a regular season game for the Philadelphia 76ers. It took almost three years, but Embiid finally passed Andrew Bynum on the Sixers’ All-Time Games Played List. 

But Embiid was not the MVP for the Sixers’ opener. That title goes to the older gentleman who charged at Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook with two raised middle fingers, as he screamed an f-bomb at him. 

Yes, he was thrown out of the arena, though had it been up to me I’d have given the guy a ticket upgrade, and possibly a job with the team. The greater point is, how many times did you see fans in courtside seats flipping the bird at opposing superstars, in the three years Sam Hinkie was in charge? Exactly. The passion for the Sixers is back. 

My ideal scenario: The Sixers trade for Russell Westbrook, and the cover of next year’s team yearbook is Westbrook and that fan, side by side, flipping the bird together. 


Other Philly sports takes: 

- It’s so, so pathetic that Pittsburgh keeps changing the name of its hockey arena. 

- I heard they were doing E-A-G-L-E-S chants at the Sixers home opener. Awful- they should keep that stuff where it belongs, at Phillies games. 

- I can't figure out how to pronounce Big V's full name so for now I'll just call him "Winston Justice.”

- My thoughts on the WIP lineup changes? It’s about to time they gave a shot to an ex-Eagle in the mid-day, and an overweight out-of-towner in the afternoon. 

Follow @FakeWIPCaller on Twitter. 

Mike McQueary's defamation suit against Penn State headed to jury

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Mike McQueary's defamation suit against Penn State headed to jury

BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- Lawyers for a former Penn State assistant football coach are urging jurors to find the university liable for how it treated him after it became public that his testimony helped prosecutors charge Jerry Sandusky with child molestation.

Both sides in the defamation and whistleblower lawsuit filed by Mike McQueary made closing arguments Thursday.

McQueary claims he was defamed by a statement the school president released the day Sandusky was charged, retaliated against for helping with the Sandusky investigation and misled by school administrators.

Penn State argues McQueary's reputation was harmed by public opinion about his decision not to go to police or child-welfare authorities when he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a team shower in 2001.

McQueary is seeking more than $4 million.