85 receptions, 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns. That’s a whole lot of production to replace but that’s the challenge that Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly will face during the upcoming season. The team’s former top receiver Jeremy Maclin left the City of Brotherly Love to reunite with his former head coach Andy Reid on the Kansas City Chiefs.
This isn’t the first time Kelly has had to replace a top receiver in just one year, as Maclin replaced DeSean Jackson‘s production this past season. But do the Eagles have a single player that can replace Maclin’s production by himself in 2015? That will certainly be tough to do. Many talk about the Eagles using a running back by committee approach with their trio of DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. Yet they may have to use that same approach at wide receiver also.
When DeSean Jackson was released in 2013, many were worried who would replace him but the Eagles already had Maclin on their roster, another proven wide receiver. But with Maclin’s departure, the Eagles don’t have a proven top receiver on their roster. Riley Cooper and Miles Austin are the only wide receivers on their roster with significant snaps as a starting player in the NFL. Jordan Matthews spent almost his entire rookie season in the slot while Josh Huff and Nelson Agholor are complete unknowns.
While it’s easy to say that Agholor will transfer easily to the NFL in Kelly’s system, absolutely nothing is guaranteed in this league. That’s why the game is played on the field and not on paper. If I had to guess which player would get a majority of the targets Maclin received in 2014, I believe tight end Zach Ertz will be the biggest beneficiary, especially if Sam Bradford is the team’s starting quarterback.
Bradford absolutely loves throwing to his tight end but has never had a player with the talent that Ertz possesses at the position. If that duo can be on the field at the same time, it could be one of the best quarterback-pass catcher connections in the NFL. Ertz has reportedly overhauled his blocking technique this offseason and should be in line for a huge bump in snaps, hopefully overtaking veteran tight end Brent Celek as the team’s starter.
If that truly is the case, Ertz may be the unconventional replacement for the void left by Maclin. It’s certainly not easy to replace Pro Bowl caliber talent each and every season but that’s a challenge that Kelly has had to deal with the past two seasons as Philadelphia’s head coach. But this time he may have to take a completely different approach than he has before, which will certainly be something to watch for in 2015.
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