The Eagles would be thrilled if Jeremy Maclin returned to the form prior to his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last summer in training camp.
If he’s even better, as Nick Foles suggested Tuesday, that’s a bonus for Maclin, Foles and the entire offense.
“Gut feeling, I think he's better," Foles said. "Mac is one of those guys, he doesn't want to just get back to where he was, he wants to be better. When you go through injuries you have to face adversity, your mindset, you have to go through a lot.
“The way he handled everything last year, he did a great job of it to where he's got even more strength -- whether it's mindset, wherever -- where he can push it even harder. I think he is better than he ever was. Throwing to him on the field and seeing him run and catch, I think he looks great."
Less than a full year removed from blowing out his right knee for the second time since the start of his college career, Maclin has participated in all facets of OTAs and Tuesday’s start of a three-day minicamp that continues through Thursday.
Normally, guys coming off major knee surgery -- especially receivers -- get some reprieves during the spring camps as they work their way back to full strength. Maclin said he’s taken no plays off, run every route available and passed every mental hurdle possible along the way.
“As far as all the routes, I’m doing them all,” he said. “We’ve had some plays where I’ve had to kind of stretch out and run out an kind of dig a little bit and I’ve made those plays. Plays [where] I’ve got to jump and catch the ball. I think the next step is actually getting tackled. Once you get past that I’m gonna be at 12 months anyway, so it’s healed.”
Unlike his predecessor, Andy Reid, head coach Chip Kelly isn’t a big believer in contact at training camp, so Maclin’s next opportunity to get clobbered by a defensive back probably won’t be until the team’s Aug. 8 preseason opener against the Bears.
By then, Maclin will be almost 14 months removed from the time of his freak tear at last year’s camp, when he went down during a non-contact drill.
For the moment, Maclin said he has no reason to believe he’s lost a step or lacks the explosion he had prior to the injury.
“In some ways, I feel faster,” he said. “It’s a feeling, and like I said, you can tell looking on tape. … The one thing that’s gonna let me know when I get in a game is actually getting tackled, but like I said, by that time I’ll be well after 12 months and there will be nothing to worry about.”
The unfortunate byproduct of Maclin’s injury was the receiver’s inability to continue developing his rapport with Foles. The two had started to form their symmetry at the end of the 2012 season, when Foles started six games in place of an injured Mike Vick.
Two of Maclin’s three 100-yard games that season came with Foles as the starter, including the memorable nine-catch, 104-yard effort against the Bucs that ended with a winning touchdown connection between Foles and Maclin at the buzzer.
Maclin caught eight passes for 116 yards and a 27-yard touchdown on Dec. 23 against the Redskins, a game Foles finished despite fracturing his hand.
So far, Foles sees no difference in the Maclin from 2012 and the one he’s targeting during these camps.
“I can’t tell a difference at all. Coming out of breaks, everything, going downfield … he’s the same Jeremy and Jeremy is a guy that wants to get better every day no matter what. It’s exciting to have him back out there and healthy.”