In this week’s edition of Mosher’s Mailbag, I answer a question about the Eagles’ receivers.
Q. Do you think the Eagles can win the division again in 2014 with their current receiving corps?
-- Rick Brzyski (@BossManRickB)
A. Sure do. Your question seems to imply that the Eagles have a substandard receiving corps, which I don’t think is the case. Of course, the fate of the corps hinges on whether Jeremy Maclin comes back fully healthy from last year’s ACL injury, his second since the start of his college career and in the same knee. If Maclin is anywhere near the receiver he was pre-injury, he should be a really effective weapon in Chip Kelly’s offense.
Maclin won’t be an exact replacement over DeSean Jackson. He’s a different kind of player. He can’t match Jackson’s speed (who can?) but Maclin is a better route runner and more versatile. He’ll probably see a good deal of snaps in the slot because he’s bigger and more equipped to handle the traffic across the middle.
The Eagles undoubtedly lost a pure field stretcher when they got rid of Jackson, but Kelly has shown throughout his coaching career, in college and in his first NFL season, that cats aren’t skinned just one way. Maybe the Eagles don’t get 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns out of Maclin, but it’s entirely possible -- probable, actual -- that tight end Zach Ertz and rookie receiver Jordan Matthews combine for much more than the 39 receptions for 447 yards that Jason Avant produced last year. (Ertz had 36 catches for 469 yards by himself, nearly matching Avant’s production).
I’m not sure what to make of Riley Cooper. He definitely benefited from the change-over from Mike Vick to Nick Foles, but he also reaped the benefits of playing opposite Jackson and seeing plenty of single coverage. Opponents probably won’t commit as many resources to Maclin as they did for Jackson, which means Cooper’s numbers could drop, but he’s still a big target and can still be effective red-zone weapon.
Although Darren Sproles isn’t technically a wide receiver, you still have to consider his impact on the passing game. Teams that try to man-press the Eagles will have to devote a linebacker or safety to Sproles, even if he’s just catching passes out of the backfield, and those are matchups Sproles has historically won.