Eagles Wake-Up Call: How Would WR Pieces Fit?
Update: The Eagles announced Friday afternoon that Jeremy Maclin is in the fold on a one-year deal.
The Eagles’ wide receiver situation got a little bit clearer Thursday morning when the team announced it had signed Riley Cooper to a new deal.
But there are still a couple chips left to fall. The Eagles are looking to get something done with Jeremy Maclin, and at this point it would be an upset if Jason Avant were to return.
As we wait to see what’s next, it’s worth exploring how the pieces might fit.
“I don’t know. I have no idea,” Cooper said, when asked how things would work if Maclin came back. “The only thing I can possibly think of is I’ll either be the number three – cause they’re both great players – or we’ll just do maybe some more subbing, a little bit more high-tempo, get fresh guys in and work on that. But I honestly have no idea. I don’t know.”
Chip Kelly has not addressed the media since the day after the season ended, but chances are his response would be: “They’ll compete.” And that’s fair enough.
But Avant spent 359 passing downs in the slot last year, per Pro Football Focus. That was fifth-most in the league.
The guess here is that if the Eagles were to let Avant go and move on with DeSean Jackson, Maclin and Cooper as their top three wide receivers in 2014, they wouldn’t have a defined slot receiver. Jackson, for example, ran 26.5 percent of his routes out of the slot last year, a career-high. And he caught 28 of 34 balls thrown his way (82.4 percent) when lined up in the slot. Jackson is not going to make tough catches in traffic, but he can create mismatches inside and stretch the field.
Maclin, meanwhile, was in the slot 31.6 percent of the time in 2012 (27 catches for 385 yards). Again, he’s not someone that has proven to be effective at out-muscling defenders for the ball in between the numbers, but he can still be part of the solution.
And don’t forget about Zach Ertz. He’s a receiving tight end first and foremost. As a rookie, he lined up in the slot 42.8 percent of the time, per PFF.
The point is Kelly will likely mix and match. Slot receivers nowadays come in all different sizes, shapes and skill sets – from 5-9 Wes Welker to 6-4 Marques Colston. Kelly made a big deal last spring about wide receivers knowing all the different roles within the offense. And we saw during the season that he would switch up where guys would line up.
It’s only February 28, and the Eagles still have plenty of moves to make. They need to come to a resolution on Maclin, see if any free agents fit and explore a wide receiver-rich draft in May.
But based on 2013, Kelly has some toys he knows can be effective in different spots.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Cooper says he’s proud of himself. A lot has changed for the WR in seven months.
T-Mac takes a look at Cooper and the value question.
According to a report, Maclin is looking for a one-year deal, but the team wants a longer-term agreement.
The Eagles signed Jason Kelce to a deal that will keep him here through 2020.
“A five-time All-Pro rabbit in a bear suit.” T-Mac on the symbolism of the Jason Peters signing.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com looks at the sacks the Eagles gave up last year. He attributes eight to Lane Johnson:
Lane Johnson’s season started off shaky, but he settled down as the season progressed. In his first 4 games, Johnson was physically beaten for a sack 3 times, as he struggled quite a bit against the Chiefs and Broncos. However, over the last 13 games, he was physically beaten for a sack by an opponent he was trying to block 4 times. Jason Peters was also beaten 4 times over that same span. Early struggles for a rookie OT are to be expected, but Johnson’s improvement as the season progressed was very encouraging.
Phil Sheridan of ESPN.com looks at the Cooper signing:
Cooper also avoided visits with other teams where he would have to answer unpleasant and difficult questions about last summer.
Instead of having to explain how and why he was captured on video dropping a racial slur at a concert, and convince new coaches and teammates that he’s really a decent guy, Cooper remains with the one team that has already dealt with and moved on from the incident.
It’s been a busy week. Could we get some Maclin news today?