The Philadelphia Eagles traded a conditional seventh-round draft pick for running back Kenjon Barner from the Carolina Panthers. Barner will maybe show some flash on kick returns, but he probably will not see many reps at running back should he make the final roster. There are too many backs already on the team that have impressed the coaching staff up through now.
Does the acquisition of Barner hint at a deeper concern the Eagles may have about the health of their star running back Lesean McCoy? Turf toe tends to severely hinder production, and only time seems to be the remedy.
Perhaps the Eagles should think equally about their wide receiver situation. After all, it is much easier for a running back to get plugged in and make plays than it is for a receiver. McCoy is by no means easily replaceable, but quite often first-year backs can be dominant on the field–much less likely for young receivers.
Seven of the thirteen receivers on the current roster are either rookies or going into their second year. The general rule-of-thumb with receivers is that they need two, solid years of experience before they can truly be difference-makers.
If Riley Cooper, who has recently returned to practice after missing several weeks with a foot injury (foot injuries can linger), were to tweak his ankle again this week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, or even in week one of the regular season against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Eagles would be left with Jeremy Maclin, some promising rookies, and a bunch of second-rate players.
Jeremy Maclin has also been missing a lot of practice with a hamstring injury–and if there is one type of injury that can hang around all season it’s a hamstring injury.
Rookie receiver Jordan Matthews appears to be a stud in the making, but should Cooper and Maclin be absent on game days, Matthews may not be enough for the Eagles to meet current expectations. Meanwhile Josh Huff, another rookie receiver, injured his shoulder last week against the New England Patriots.
Any NFL team that loses both of their starting wide receivers would be in trouble. What makes the situation slightly different for the Eagles is that they really do not know what to expect from Maclin or Cooper when the deep threat, Desean Jackson, is not drawing lots of attention on the opposite side of the field.
Regardless, if Cooper and Maclin are starting each and every Sunday, head coach Chip Kelly will probably opt to heavily involve his tight end duo of Brent Celek and Zach Ertz. Ertz has looked very much improved from last season–through two preseason games thus far, and Celek has recently been putting his toughness on display as well (he also looks leaner).
This is all speculation. Cooper and Maclin could very well play all sixteen games of the 2014 season. However, Maclin is coming off a major knee injury from last season, Cooper had some injuries prior to the 2013 season, and both receivers are currently dealing with leg-related injuries.
Just in case, Kelly is definitely giving the remaining receivers plenty of reps with the first-team offense during practice. Repetition and timing are the most important factors in creating the quarterback-receiver connection that produce points and excite the fans.