Eagles Wake-Up Call: WR Training Camp Preview
Leading up to training camp on August 2, we’ll have a position-by-position preview of the Eagles’ roster. We started with the running backs. Today, we’ll tackle the wide receiver position.
The pressing question: How will the Eagles replace Jeremy Maclin‘s production?
Most of the roster turnover this offseason was by design. Maclin, though, was one Andy Reid holdover that Chip Kelly was hoping to keep. The 27-year-old veteran had a stellar 2014 season, bouncing back from an ACL tear to post career highs in receptions (85), yards (1,318) and touchdowns (10). To suggest he was just a product of the system would be to neglect both the number of big-time catches he snared and the inconsistent quarterback play he was working with. They made a push to re-sign him this offseason but were outbid by the Chiefs, who gave Maclin a five-year, $55 million deal ($22.5 million guaranteed).
The weight now falls on a young receiving corps to keep the machine humming. The Eagles have invested heavily in the the receiver position over the last two drafts, using a second and third-round pick in 2014 on Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff, respectively, before selecting Nelson Agholor in the first round this past April.
That group, paired with veterans like Riley Cooper and Miles Austin and other weapons like Zach Ertz and Darren Sproles, should be able to keep the passing game cruising at a good clip. The main concern is how green they are. There could be some growing pains along the way; the trick will be avoiding big miscues in big moments.
Kelly went with six receivers to start the season last year and had five on his original 53-man roster the year before.
It seems like a good bet that Matthews, Huff, Agholor, Cooper and Austin will make the team. That would leave Seyi Ajirotutu, Rasheed Bailey, Devante Davis, John Harris, Jeff Maehl and Quron Pratt potentially fighting for one spot. Per Jimmy Kempski, only one player in the NFL has had more special teams tackles than Ajirotutu over the past two years. Given how much Kelly values special teams contributions, Ajirotutu might be the favorite.
One thing I think
Like many others, I was impressed by what I saw out of Agholor this spring. The players were in shorts, yes, but his ability — the fluidity of movement, the burst, the body control — was as clear as day. He was equally impressive when dealing with the media. After his introductory press conference, one reporter suggested that the 22-year-old could run for mayor.
The mixture of talent and maturity gives Agholor a good chance of overcoming the obstacles that often trip up rookie receivers. That combo worked for Matthews, who had 67 catches for 872 yards and eight scores last year. Those are some pretty big numbers for Agholor to chase down, but I think he has a chance to end up in that ballpark.
WHAT YOU MISSED
“[H]e was the kind of guy who…didn’t necessarily like maybe being coached hard.” Former Eagles exec Louis Riddick on why Nick Foles might be better off in St. Louis.
Our training camp preview begins with a look at DeMarco Murray and the running backs.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Dave Spadaro writes about Sam Bradford as we inch closer to the start of camp.
So what is the story with Bradford as we narrow down on the opening of Training Camp? It’s a good question, with an answer that only Bradford and the Eagles’ athletic training staff likely has an inside knowledge of right now. Bradford has continued his rehab during the off time since June 17. There has been nothing but optimism regarding his work and his recovery and the outlook.
But the truth is that it’s very much going to be a day-by-day evaluation. As Bradford ramps up his participation, how will his knee react the next day? Is swelling a concern? How many reps in the training sessions work for Bradford? How much work does he need in the training sessions to get ready for preseason action and then, in turn, how much work does he need in the preseason games — not wearing a red jersey — to be ready for the regular season?
These are legitimate questions. There are no answers at this point. Bradford is like every other player, and his injury recovery is to be handled in a player-specific manner. That’s why head coach Chip Kelly said in the spring that there is no “schedule” for Bradford because, well, nobody knows how he will respond to the increases in workload or any rehabilitation challenges he may encounter.
A list of the NFL’s top-selling jerseys includes several Eagles (both current and former):
— Mike Rosenberg (@RosenbergMerc) July 23, 2015
Almost there. Nine days until camp.