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Eagles Receivers: Not So Lousy Now, Are They?

Jul 30, 2009, 12:30 PM EDT

Weapons

Where in the world is Jeremy Maclin?  In case you haven't noticed, first round picks are finally starting to reach agreements with their clubs, so it's reasonable to assume Maclin will be doing the same in the near-to-immediate future.  Once he's in the fold, the coaches will be doing everything they can to prepare him to step onto the field right away.

What the Eagles can reasonably expect to get out of Maclin this year is unknown, and there are varying opinions on the subject.  Some recognize the playmaking ability Maclin has and believe he needs to be heavily involved in the offense immediately, and others think he'll have trouble adapting to the system and be a non-factor this season, especially if he continues to be a holdout.  We'll project somewhere in between.  We're going to see a lot of Jeremy Maclin from the onset, and he might have an average season statistically, but he'll be excellent for a rookie.

One point thats' been raised a few places, such as Football Outsiders Almanac and GCobb, is the selection of Maclin leading to the phasing out of Kevin Curtis.  G
specifically tied
Curtis' latest surgery directly to the Maclin pick,
and though that probably wasn't exactly the case, his health could
become a factor.  FO points out Curtis' contract nearly doubles in
2010, and continues to rise in '11 and '12, though the increase is base
salary leaving him essentially unprotected.

Plus Jason Avant is still a player in this thing.  We've all watched as he's become a favorite target for McNabb on third downs, and with good reason.  Avant does a great job finding holes in the zone, and he has one of the more reliable sets of hands on this team.  The problem is he becomes a free agent after this season (if the CBA is resolved in time), and while there won't be any teams clamoring to make him a starter, plenty will be intrigued by his work in the slot.

Pencil in Maclin and DeSean Jackson as the starters of the future, and what you have is a fight over the third spot.  The Eagles typically keep their young players in the nest.  If Curtis isn't healthy or performing, it does not seem like such a stretch to say it could be his final year in Philly.

Breakout Season: DeSean Jackson

Will this be a breakout season for Desean Jackson?  Or maybe more appropriately, a breakout-ier or more breakout season?  He defied even the greatest of expectations as a rookie last season, and in year two has the potential to establish himself as a star.

That's as long as he improves in a few key fundamental areas, his consistency in particular.  There were too many games he was a non-factor, like the four where he had fewer than 3 receptions and 21 yards.  And there was week 16 against the Redskins, where he dropped not one, but two deep passes, the second of which was a right on the money delivery from McNabb for a sure touchdown.  He came up small in a huge spot, and it cost them the game and very nearly the playoffs.

You'll always take the good with the bad with a talent like Jackson, but elite players show up every week.  That's the next and perhaps final step here.

Roster Battle: Reggie Brown v. Hank Baskett

I'm probably one of the few Eagles fans who still sees something in Reggie Brown, and actually thought he might have a decent season last year before injuries gave Jackson an opportunity to break into the lineup.  Nobody is saying he'll ever be great, but his first three years in the league were solid.  He was among the top rookie receivers in all major statistical categories as a rookie in '05, with Mike McMahon at QB no less, and followed that up with 816 yards and 8 TD's in '06, then set a career mark with 61 catches in '07.

He's good enough to play somewhere is the point, and some have been linking him in a possible trade to receiver-thin Baltimore.  If you think there was a problem here, their current situation makes the combination of Thrash and Pinkston almost sound appealing… almost.  Assuming that doesn't happen though, Brown faces one glaring question coming into this camp: can he contribute on special teams?  Popular opinion has Hank Baskett as the odd man out, in part because the Eagles would take an insane $9 million cap hit by releasing Brown this season.  Baskett does work on special teams though, and Brown has not, so how he progresses in that aspect is crucial to this decision.

It's an interesting, however unfavorable position they find themselves.  Reggie Brown could probably start right now on about 10 different NFL teams, but instead he's competing for the final roster spot on the Eagles.