Eagles Depth Chart Outlook: Wide Receiver

This is the seventh in a series. Click here for the earlier depth chart posts.

It’s a period of change for the Eagles’ wide receivers: new coaches, new scheme, new routes and uncertainty at quarterback.

Chip Kelly’s offense will require them to block, not only in the run game, but for each other on screens and quick throws. They’ll face a new mental challenge as well, with an increase in option routes that call for the receivers to adjust based on the coverage.

Several familiar names return, including DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson and Riley Cooper.

New faces such as Arrelious Benn and Ifeanyi Momah have entered the fray. Benn was acquired in a trade with the Bucs, and Momah is a 6-foot-6 target who signed on as an undrafted free agent out of Boston College.

Others on the roster include: Russell Shepard, B.J. Cunningham, Will Murphy, Nick Miller and Greg Salas.

Here’s a look at all the wide receivers:

Jason Avant6-0212307/38
Arrelious Benn6-2220243/24
Riley Cooper6-3222253/10
B.J. Cunningham6-2215231/0
DeSean Jackson5-10175265/70
Damaris Johnson5-8175231/1
Jeremy Maclin6-0198254/57
Nick Miller5-9180260/0
Ifeanyi Momah6-6229230/0
Will Murphy6-2193230/0
Greg Salas6-1209242/0
Russell Shepard6-1195220/0

Pencil ’em in: Jackson, Maclin.

I’ve only got two in this group.

In his first three years in the league, Jackson scored seven non-receiving touchdowns on carries and punt returns. In the last two years, that number has been zero.

Early indications are that he’s going to get more of a chance to do those things and will be moved around the formation. But Jackson’s greatest skill is still his ability to stretch the defense on vertical routes. He hasn’t been effective on wide receiver screens in the past, but he’ll certainly get a chance to pick up yards after the catch on those in this offense.

Maclin is in a contract year. Chances are he’ll go into Week 1 without a new deal. Maclin has flashed his ability on several occasions in his first four seasons, but he has yet to put everything together. He’s averaged over 67 catches per season since 2010 and will get a chance to make plays with the ball in his hands in this offense.

Fighting for spots: Avant, Benn, Cooper, Johnson, Momah, Cunningham, Murphy, Miller, Salas, Shepard.

As you can see, plenty of competition with this group. But there are favorites.

Benn has an excellent chance to stick. He was added after the Eagles hired Kelly and brings a diverse skill set (All-22 breakdown here) with the ability to block and play special teams. A former second-round pick, Benn was a disappointment in Tampa, but seems like an ideal candidate to provide depth to this unit.

On Monday, Avant was the last player off the field. After practice, he spent extra time feeding the JUGS machine for Shepard, an undrafted free agent. By all accounts, he’s as good a teammate as there is in that locker room.

But Avant is 30 and is no lock to make the squad. He’s been a reliable slot receiver with great hands, but does not offer much in the speed or size categories. Avant has gotten some looks on defense from the coaching staff. Kelly will have to decide whether he’s a valuable veteran or whether the team is better served giving a younger guy a shot.

Johnson averaged 5.5 yards after the catch last year, according to Pro Football Focus. That was tops on the team. It was a small sample size (19 catches), but he was productive in spurts and also improved as a punt returner. Johnson is far from a lock, but he has a decent chance of sticking around.

Because of Jackson’s injury, Cooper got a chance to prove himself last year. He played more than 70 percent of the offensive snaps in the final seven games, according to Pro Football Focus, but did not impress, totaling 206 yards on 19 catches (29.4 yards per game). But Cooper has a good size/speed profile and can play special times. He’ll be very much in the competition for a roster spot.

Perhaps the most intriguing player in this group is Momah. We wrote about him last week. He’s the biggest target among Eagles wide receivers and has been at the NovaCare Complex honing his craft for the last month. With his size and speed, Momah could be a nice option to create matchup problems and line up in different spots across the formation. But he’ll have to prove himself worthy of a roster spot this summer.

Cunningham, Shepard, Salas, Murphy and Miller are longshots. Among those names, Shepard, an undrafted free agent out of LSU, has the best chance of making an impression.

The guess is Kelly will keep five or six receivers. That could mean choosing three or four from the following group: Avant, Benn, Cooper, Johnson and Momah.

In other words, spots will be up for grabs during training camp.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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