Earlier this week during the Philadelphia Eagles second week of Organized Team Activities (OTA’s), the crowd at NovaCare received a brief scare as wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was seen on the ground clutching his left knee according to a report from Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane. Maclin made contact with a defensive player while going after a jump ball in the endzone thrown by quarterback Nick Foles. Even though OTA’s are supposed to be non-contact drills, accidents can happen. This has already been proven by both Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee and Chicago Bears wide receiver Domenik Hixon after both have already torn their ACLs ending their 2014 campaigns. So after Monday’s brief scare, can the Eagles offense afford an injury to one of their starting wide receivers?
To be blunt, yes they can.
Maclin’s injury history can be deemed anything but short. He has had the misfortune of being plagued with either nagging or serious injuries that have prevented him from playing an entire NFL season every year except for in 2010. Wide receiver Riley Cooper has faced concussions, collarbone, and knee injuries in his four years as a professional. To rely on these two to start all 16 games would be a bold, uncharacteristic risk by the Eagles.
When looking at the Eagles wide receivers objectively by the numbers, the results are far from impressive.
Philadelphia Eagles Wide Receivers - Career Numbers
*Have yet to play an NFL down.
However, even after cutting wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant this offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles enter the 2014 year with plenty of options at wide-out as evidenced above. Removing the outlier of 30-year old wide receiver Brad Smith, the average age of Philadelphia’s receiving corp is just over 24.
Behind Maclin and Cooper are two budding rookies eager to start their NFL careers in second round pick Jordan Matthews and third round pick Josh Huff. Matthews has already received high praise from the Philadelphia brass and looks like it will only be a matter of time before taking the slot position from incumbent Brad Smith. Another injury-stricken wide receiver is looking to get his career back on track in Arrelious Benn after arriving last year from Tampa Bay. Benn, a former second round pick from Illinois, started 14 games for Tampa Bay back in 2011 and is eager to get to action. Damaris Johnson, Jeff Maehl, and Ifeanyi Momah provide further depth at what appears to be a crowded, albeit somewhat unproven position.
Would losing either Maclin or Cooper for an extended period of time hurt the Eagles potentially repeating as NFC East divisional winners? It may, but it’s hard to dispel the notion that head coach Chip Kelly won’t have a way to counteract and mitigate these losses. Two early draft picks and two wide receivers coming back from injury have yet to be featured in Kelly’s fast-paced offense and we have yet to see what production they can provide. Kelly’s track record has shown that his offenses don’t hinge on one playmaker, and losing one for a period of time would not slow down Philadelphia’s aerial attack (and let’s not forget the Eagles have plenty of weapons at running back and tight end).
The Eagles are in a good position at wide receiver as they have multiple weapons to grow and develop with their young 25-year old quarterback Foles. Injuries are an impossible thing to predict in the NFL, but should the Eagles fall on bad luck in 2014 they have plenty of options willing and ready to step up to the plate.