Dec 23, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper (14) during the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field. The Redskins defeated the Eagles 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles: Riley Cooper Must Step Up

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With the unfortunate injury to Jeremy Maclin, the entire Philadelphia Eagles offense has taken a blow. He has been an effective target for the Eagles the past four years and has never had below 770 yards a season. While DeSean Jackson is the obvious No. 1 target, this opens up a great deal of competition and opportunity for many of the Eagles wide receivers.

Now, while someone is going to take over Maclin’s spot on the depth chart, there is a very good chance that someone else is going to have a breakout season. That man would be former fifth-round pick Riley Cooper. That may not be a sexy pick to many to win the No. 2 spot, and he most likely won’t. However, that does not mean he won’t be able to have a greater impact on this team than before.

Last year, the Eagles wide receivers were injured which made Cooper have to come and step up into the plate. Now while he only had 248 yards and three touchdowns, he showed a great deal of talent and promise while he had a rookie quarterback throwing to him during those games.

Cooper showed his ability to be a possession receiver while showcasing great hands and an understanding of where weak spots were in the defense. Cooper is not going to be a home-run threat every time he catches the ball, nor anything like that. What you get with Cooper is a reliable receiver who is going to fight for every yard. He shows a toughness to fight for every yard and take hits over the middle of the field. One of Cooper’s greatest assets is that he has the ability to make stunning catches. While he is not the biggest receiver, he still knows how to use his athleticism to beat defenders.

Dec 2, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles receiver Riley Cooper (14) makes a third quarter touchdown catch against Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr (39) at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Cooper has a tremendous opportunity to make an impact on this offense. It’s unlikely he will become the No. 2 wide receiver; however, he can still see some sets on the outside and definitely play with quickness in the slot position. With the possibility of Nick Foles starting at some point this year, he is going to be looking for a go-to receiver when the pocket breaks down.

Foles has already worked with Cooper last season, and the two have done decently well together. The other thing about Cooper is that he has yet to reach his full potential. He was an extremely raw prospect coming out of college, and getting more reps and playing time is only going to increase his play.

2013 is going to be an intriguing year for the entire Eagles offense without Maclin on the field. This will give some of the younger receivers chances to show what they can contribute to the team. Training camp will have a battle for the No. 2 wide receiver spot, but don’t be surprised if Cooper actually contributes more to this team. He is someone to watch out for during preseason as well. So while watching those games, keep a close eye on Cooper. He may not have the most yards or touchdowns during the regular season, but he has a chance to show how dependable he is to this Eagles offense and how he can help them win some big games.

This is Riley Cooper’s time to emerge as a secret weapon that the Eagles can use to their advantage.

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Tags: DeSean Jackson Jeremy Maclin NFC East NFL Nick Foles Philadelphia Eagles Riley Cooper Training Camp

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