We got a request from a reader yesterday to run through the Eagles’ wide receiver depth chart with the guys currently on the roster.
And since we are a blog of the people, we will oblige.
The Eagles currently have nine wide receivers on their roster (that does not include pass-catchers like TE Zach Ertz and RB Darren Sproles).
Below is a player-by-player look at how each guy figures into the team’s 2014 plans. Keep in mind that this outlook will likely change post-draft.
Jeremy Maclin – As we mentioned recently, if healthy, Maclin is the early favorite to lead the team in targets. He is a good route-runner and does a lot of things well, although he doesn’t have one skill that sets him apart. Maclin can get open downfield at times, but he’s nowhere near the deep threat DeSean Jackson has been. In the past five seasons, among WRs who caught at least 100 balls, Jackson ranked third in yards per catch (17.7). Maclin ranked 57th (13.4). Coming off of ACL surgery, he is expected to be full-go by training camp and should be featured both outside and in the slot. Maclin can obviously be penciled in as a starter going into the spring.
Riley Cooper – Given the way things currently stand, Cooper is the other starter on the outside. He averaged a team-high 17.8 yards per catch in 2013 (third-best in the league). Chip Kelly spoke last week about what he wants in a wide receiver.
“You want someone that can separate from one-on-one coverage, be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there with separation and catch the football,” he said. “And that’s the biggest aspect for it. It can come in a lot of different ways. It can be the speed element of it. It can be the power and size element of it. There’s a lot of different ways to cut it.”
With Cooper, it’s the power/size element. He doesn’t need to necessarily be open to make a play. Nick Foles will take chances on Cooper to track the ball down and fight off defenders, something he did well in 2013. The Eagles will be counting on him to provide a repeat (or better?) performance without Jackson on the other side.
Arrelious Benn – Things get incredibly dicey beyond the first two guys. Benn will only be 26 when the season starts, but he’s coming off his second ACL injury in the past four years. At 6-2, 220, Benn is someone Kelly and the organization liked enough to trade for last offseason. He has good size, is an excellent blocker and can line up both inside and outside. If Benn can prove he’s healthy, he has a shot to get into the WR mix, but at the same time, there’s no guarantee he even ends up on the roster.
Brad Smith – Yes, he is still on the roster. The Eagles added Smith during last season, and according to Adam Caplan, they restructured his deal for 2014. Smith played a total of 20 snaps after joining the team in Week 11, finishing with two catches for 27 yards and two carries for 2 yards. He also saw limited action (four attempts) as a kickoff returner. Smith is the kind of guy Kelly values on the back end of the roster because he’s capable of filling a number of roles. Offensively, though, he seems like nothing more than a rotational/depth guy.
Jeff Maehl – One of Kelly’s guys from Oregon, he played 11.7 percent of the snaps last year, per Pro Football Focus. Maehl knew the system, but was largely a non-factor, finishing with four catches for 67 yards on nine targets. He’ll have to compete for a roster spot this spring and summer.
Damaris Johnson – He was a complete non-factor, playing just 53 snaps all season while catching two balls for 14 yards. Johnson also did very little on special teams as a returner and lost that job. Kelly never seemed to think Johnson was capable of contributing much offensively. At this point, he’s a longshot to make the roster.
Ifeanyi Momah – The 6-7, 239-pounder created some buzz when he signed, but looked extremely raw on the practice fields. His timed speed didn’t translate, and Momah rarely showed that he knew how to use his size as an advantage. He’ll practice with the Eagles, but barring some kind of monumental leap, should not be considered a candidate to contribute in 2014.
B.J. Cunningham – He was active for two games last year, but finished the season on the practice squad. It’s unlikely he gets on the field for the Eagles in 2014.
Will Murphy – He played for Kelly at Oregon and made the 90-man roster last year after a spring tryout. He is a practice body who knows Kelly’s system.