Not every receiver is going to have a breakout year for the Philadelphia Eagles next year. In the end, there are only so many snaps to go around, and this is a team that already has a strong focus on running the ball after signing last year’s winner of the rushing title in DeMarco Murray, as well as former Chargers’ starter Ryan Mathews. It’s fair to expect some receivers’ snap counts to go up in 2015 after losing Jeremy Maclin in free agency. But not every receiver is going to have a sensational season.
Losing Maclin will definitely allow for others to see an increase in usage though. He led the team in targets (143) and receptions (85) last year, so it’s only natural that someone would pick up the slack. Other than Maclin, they had three other players with at least 75 targets: Jordan Matthews (103), Riley Cooper (95) and Zach Ertz (89). Maclin’s 1,000+ snaps last year will surely be made up in some way, but I expect most of those to go to first round pick Nelson Agholor. While it’s possible that he won’t begin the season as a starter because of how Chip Kelly makes rookies earn their playing time, I am sure that he will finish the season with far more snaps, targets and receptions than Cooper.
Hypothetically, let’s say Agholor replaces about 75 percent of Maclin’s snaps and targets from 2014. That may be a high estimate, but we’ll go with it for now. That’ll only leave about 250 snaps and 35 targets for players other than Agholor to have. Matthews will likely be the number one target even if he starts in the slot, so I also expect him to see an increase to close to what Maclin’s numbers were. Hypothetically, that could mean the addition of that other 250 snaps and 35 targets, or some value close to that.
If the addition of Agholor and the increase in usage of Matthews will fully replace Maclin, it will be difficult for other receivers to see a huge increase in playing time.
For the record, when I say receivers, I include tight ends and running backs as well, since the Eagles pass to those players often as well. So, while the loss of Maclin could create a trickle down effect on the wide receiver depth chart by increasing everyone else’s snaps a bit more, it might not mean more targets for them if guys like Ertz are expected to receive an increase in targets.
Ertz is the one guy other than Matthews who was on the team last year who I expect to see a real increase in snaps and targets. Brent Celek may only be around for one more year, and it’s time that they make the full transition and make Ertz the top tight end. He did finish last year with 702 yards, but just three touchdowns after inconsistent usage in their passing attack. He could easily more than double his touchdowns from 2014.
As for Cooper, Josh Huff, Miles Austin and whoever else might be catching passes, it would be difficult to increase their target totals without moving to a pass-heavy offense. That would be completely counter-productive after adding Murray and Mathews, who have the potential to be the best running back duo in the league next year. With how questionable Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford are in pass-heavy situations, it makes more sense to focus on the run and use the pass only when needed, focusing on the players who we know can actually play, not forcing targets to other guys just because they’re on the roster.
Cooper’s 95 targets from 2014 will, or at least should, decrease in 2015. That’s way too many for a player who was as ineffective as he was. Huff had just 18 targets in 2014, and I do think he’ll see an increase (even double that), but by no means will he see a massive increase. As for guys like Austin or Seyi Ajirotutu, to put it into perspective, Jeff Maehl and Brad Smith combined for just eight targets last year. Neither guy will be on the roster to catch a lot of passes.
It’ll be interesting to see if Sproles gets more targets now that he’ll be, for all intents and purposes, the third string running back. He had 62 last year, but failed to record a receiving touchdown. Murray had 64 targets for the Cowboys last year compared to just 37 for LeSean McCoy. So, either Murray will receive an decrease in targets next year, or he might eat into some of Sproles’ targets. And of course, Mathews is sure to get more than the three targets that Chris Polk got last year.
It’s all a guessing game right now, but strictly based on math, there are only so many targets and snaps to go around. It’s great to have as many weapons as the Eagles do because they can move it around to many different guys. But, the downside is that the stats are a little more spread out. If they can employ more of a team effort on offense in the passing game, I’d be fine with some guys’ stats being a bit down. If they’re winning, that’s all that matters. But don’t expect every receiver to see close to 100 targets. It just won’t happen.
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