The expectations have changed dramatically for Jeremy Maclin, and for the first time since he was drafted in 2009, he's not the Eagles' No. 2 wide receiver behind DeSean Jackson.
He has to be No. 1.
So not only is Maclin coming off an ACL injury that cost him the entire 2013 season, but in his sixth year out of Missouri he’s also being asked to be something he’s never been before.
From 2009 through 2012, Maclin averaged 67 catches for 918 yards and seven touchdowns, numbers only nine other NFL receivers had during that span.
But he still doesn’t have a 1,000-yard season to his credit, and with Jackson and Jason Avant gone and Riley Cooper and rookies Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff the other key members of wide receiving crew, Maclin is the only proven commodity in the group.
Can he respond?
He has to.
“As far as numbers and everything, I’ve never really got into numbers,” Maclin said Friday. “But if they plan on me being a big part of this offense like I think they are, I think the numbers will come. I’m not going to get wrapped up in all that. That’s how I’m going to approach the season.”
Maclin and teammates reported Friday afternoon to the NovaCare Complex and will be on the practice field Saturday morning.
It was a year ago Sunday that Maclin tore his right ACL during a routine non-contact drill.
Despite the injury, the Eagles signed Maclin to a one-year deal worth $5.5 million with incentives that could raise the value to $6 million.
Maclin can say the numbers don’t matter, but if he is going to get the long-term deal he wants after this season, he’s going to have to produce Jackson-like numbers this fall.
“When it comes to that type of stuff, it does matter, but if you can play football, you can play football,” Maclin said.
“Not many people come off an ACL injury and get a one-year deal that could be worth $6 million. That just doesn’t happen. So is it all based on stats? The answer to that is no.
“If you can play football, how valuable you are to the team, a lot of other stuff goes into it. I’m not going to be caught up in the numbers.”
During the four years Maclin and Jackson played together — 2009 through 2012 — Jackson had 420 more yards but Maclin caught 46 more passes and five more touchdowns.
Maclin has always said the touchdowns are more important than the yards.
“If you have 1,000 yards and have two touchdowns or 900 yards and have 10 touchdowns, [what’s more important?]” he said. “It is what it is.”
Maclin and Jackson both participated in LeSean McCoy’s charity basketball game to raise money to fight ALS, and Maclin said it was the first time they had spoken since Jackson was released and signed with the Redskins.
“We caught up a little bit, but there were no hard feelings between either of us, nothing negative going on,” Maclin said. “I think he’s happy where he’s at, he’s ready to bounce back a little bit, but there were no hard feelings.”
Safe to say that Maclin’s ability to fill the shoes of the three-time Pro Bowl receiver is one of the keys to the Eagles' season.
Maclin said sitting out last year gave him a new appreciation for football.
“I’m just excited to play football again,” he said. “I had to watch last year from the couch, from the sidelines, it wasn’t very fun for me. I’m blessed to be able to play this game that I love and I can’t wait to get started.”