Riley Cooper finds himself in a difficult spot that is all too familiar to NFL players.
On one hand, he just witnessed his good friend Jeremy Maclin go down with a torn ACL, ending his season. Cooper said he “almost shed a tear” for his fellow wide receiver on the practice field Saturday.
But as is always the case in football, it’s next man up. And that means Cooper, entering his fourth NFL season, will get a chance to earn significant playing time in Maclin’s place.
“Last year I started the last four or five games,” Cooper said Sunday. “I just want to start where I left off last year. I feel like I had my best year yet.
“I got targeted 3-for-3 in the red zone, three touchdowns. It felt like I had a pretty good end of the year, so I’m gonna play that way for hopefully the whole season.”
Cooper got a chance for significant playing time last year. As we mentioned over the weekend, he played at least 70 percent of the snaps in each of the Eagles’ final seven games. During that stretch, Cooper produced 19 catches for 206 yards. Over the course of a 16-game season, that projects to a pedestrian 43 catches and 471 yards.
He had a catch rate (receptions divided targets) of 49 percent, per Football Outsiders and only averaged 10.8 yards per catch. But the one area where Cooper did have success, as he pointed out, was the red zone. Cooper had four catches (three touchdowns) inside the opponents’ 20. DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant and Damaris Johnson combined for three catches and one touchdown.
Cooper now is hoping the change in offensive scheme will fit his skill set.
“It’s just a totally different style of play, as you can see,” he said. “All y’all were out there. You saw the tempo. You saw our routes. Our routes are different than a typical West Coast system. Everything’s just different.”
Part of the difference is an added emphasis on blocking, both in the run game and on screens.
“That’s perfect for me,” Cooper said. “I love that. 6-4, 230, you better be able to block. So that’s one of my strengths and I love doing it.”
During Sunday’s practice, Cooper saw a lot of time with the first team opposite Jackson. Damaris Johnson, Arrelious Benn and perhaps others will be in the mix too. But Cooper has a chance in the coming weeks to earn a bigger role than he’s had in his first three seasons.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Here’s the running diary of Eagles practice observations from Sunday.
T-Mac has camp notes, which include Jeremy Maclin revisiting the moment he got injured.
Howie Roseman indicated that the Eagles would fill the Maclin void internally.
A full rundown of the candidates available to replace Maclin.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Jimmy Kempski has his practice notes posted on Philly.com:
It’s time to start paying attention to OLB Chris McCoy. He had a PBU today and looks a lot more comfortable in coverage than Trent Cole and Brandon Graham. McCoy looks like a legitimate threat to grab a roster spot.
Dan Graziano of ESPN.com takes a look at the impact of the Maclin injury:
But this is not a problem the Eagles are likely to be able to solve with volume — or with Cooper. Maclin is more proven than any of the guys on that list. He has high-end, first-round-pick talent. He was entering 2013 with contract-season motivation. There is no one on the current roster who can seamlessly step in and replace what the Eagles believed Maclin could contribute and expected him to contribute. For that reason, no matter how you want to rationalize this, it just got more difficult for the Eagles to win games this season.
We’ll hear from Donovan McNabb at 10 and have another practice session at 12:30.