Eagles Snapshot: Wide Receiver Preview

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean JacksonThroughout the course of the week, we’ll be providing position-by-position previews of the entire Eagles roster. Let’s take a look at the wideouts. Click here for all the previews.

The roster:  DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson.

Andy Reid and Howie Roseman are rolling the dice and going with five wide receivers to start the season. The number is actually four right now, as Cooper is not all the way back from a broken collarbone sustained early in training camp. Chad Hall was likely sacrificed in part so they could keep running back Chris Polk, and no other receiver made a big push this preseason.

In case of emergency, the Eagles have Marvin McNutt and B.J. Cunningham tucked away on the practice squad.

Player in the spotlight: DeSean Jackson

Jackson’s image took a significant hit last season. Admittedly consumed with his contract, he sulked, showed up late to meetings, and was benched in what turned out to be a crucial loss to the Cardinals.

He is at a pivotal point in his career. Many feel that the organization was at fault in the contract squabble as well, hence why Jackson hasn’t been run out of town. But the Eagles stepped up and paid him, meaning the receiver is out of legitimate reasons to be disgruntled.

His teammates see a difference this year in the 25-year old.

“You definitely can, just in his preparedness, his focus and his concentration,” said Avant. “And also he’s back to being a kid again as far as his excitement and love for the game. Sometimes in this game, because there is a business aspect of it, sometimes you get your view tainted when it comes to playing this game like you were a child again.”

You should also know that…

*Maclin, standing at 6-feet, proves that you don’t need to be a big target in order to be a successful red-zone weapon. He has been the team’s best red-zone receiver the past two seasons, accruing 19 catches and 11 touchdowns inside the 20 over that time.

*Jackson has not found similar success. He had just two red-zone catches for 14 yards and a score last season. In 2010, he managed four grabs for eight yards and a TD.

*You could say that as Jackson goes, so goes the team. In Eagles wins in 2010, he had 36 catches for 949 yards and six touchdowns. In losses? Eleven catches, 107 yards, zero TDs. Similarly, three of his four touchdown  receptions came in wins last season.

* How important is the fourth wide receiver? According to  Football Outsiders, the Eagles went with four wide receivers on 9 percent of their offensive snaps last year. Cooper finished the year with 16 catches for 315 yards and a touchdown. They have a role, but they can certainly get by without Cooper for a week or two.

*Johnson only played three years at Tulsa, but finished as the NCAA’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards (7,796) and kickoff return yards (3,417).