Russell Shepard (left) and Ifeanyi Momah (right) are two rookie receivers the Eagles could turn to in replacing Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn. (AP)
Despite losing a second veteran wide receiver for the season to a knee injury, the Eagles still have no plans to acquire an experienced big-name veteran receiver at this point, according to a league source familiar with their thinking.
Arrelious Benn, originally a second-round pick of the Buccaneers in 2010, tore his left ACL during practice on Tuesday, 10 days after starter Jeremy Maclin tore his right ACL during practice on the same field at the NovaCare Complex.
The injuries have left the Eagles perilously thin at wide receiver and with very little experience at the position.
Maclin, the third wideout taken in the 2009 draft, is one of 12 receivers in NFL history with at least 50 catches for 750 yards in each of his first four seasons.
Benn, the fourth receiver taken in the 2010 draft, had 59 catches for 862 yards and five touchdowns in three injury-plagued seasons with the Buccaneers.
Other than starter DeSean Jackson, a two-time Pro Bowl pick, and Jason Avant, who is considered exclusively a slot receiver at this point in his career, the Eagles do not have a wide receiver with 50 career receptions.
The only other receivers on the roster with more than three career catches are fourth-year pro Riley Cooper (46 for 659, five TDs), who returned to practice on Tuesday; 23-year-old speedster Damaris Johnson (19 for 256 as a rookie last year); and 24-year-old Greg Salas (27 for 264 in 2011 with the Rams).
Nick Miller caught three passes for 40 yards with the Raiders in 2010, and Ifeanyi Momah, Russell Shepard and Will Murphy are all undrafted rookie free agents.
As of now, Jackson and Cooper are the projected starters, with Avant in the slot and Johnson the first outside receiver off the bench. Shepard took reps with the first offense outside during Cooper’s four-day layoff.
The Eagles are likely to add one or two wide receivers in the next couple days, but they are expected to be young street free agents or young veterans with a year or two of experience and some upside.
The Eagles believe the free agent pool is not a strong one, and the best receivers that are available -– Brandon Lloyd, Donald Jones, Brandon Stokley, Chad Johnson –- would not be good fits for various reasons.
After Maclin’s injury, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman explained why the Eagles were likely to stay with younger guys instead of adding experienced veterans.
“You want your young players to grow and develop, and that’s why you keep young players on your roster,” Roseman said
“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.
“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.”
Also, Chip Kelly’s offense revolves as much if not more around the running backs and tight ends than wide receivers, and the Eagles believe they are deep at tailback with LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk and Felix Jones and at tight end with Brent Celek, James Casey, Zach Ertz and Clay Harbor.
“We have a lot of faith in our skill position group as a whole, and that’s kind of how we look at it,” Roseman said after Maclin’s injury. “We look at the running backs, we look at the tight ends, and those are the guys we have high hopes and high expectations for.”