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Who Is the Eagles’ Best Wide Receiver?

Feb 1, 2010, 1:35 PM EDT

Macjac

DeSean Jackson gets all the headlines. DeSean Jackson wants a new contract. Andy Reid rips DeSean Jackson after the game. What does DeSean Jackson think about the Eagles' quarterback situation? He's earned all that attention, and the attention of safeties, becoming one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL. In his second season, he already accomplished something no player ever had, being named to the Pro Bowl at both wide receiver and kick returner.

He's a local celebrity whose Twitter we track relentlessly, and has his own weekly interview segment on Daily News Live. He's recognized across the country as well with a top selling jersey and his own Nike commercial. Despite all of that, the fame and a looming fortune, is DeSean Jackson even the best wide receiver on his own team? Is it possible he will be, or already has been surpassed by Jeremy Maclin?

While Jackson's production peaks and valleys on a week-to-week basis for reasons nobody seems entirely sure, by and large Maclin moves steadily forward. He's about to exceed his rookie totals, and is on his way to a 1,000-yard season with 51 receptions, 752 yards, and an impressive eight touchdowns. Those are all higher than DeSean's numbers, by the way.

Maclin is rarely a non-factor in a game. Jackson has several lines that make you wonder, with four games where he did not make much of an impact in the box score. Every few weeks, there are questions about his production. On the other hand, Maclin is almost always good for a minimum of four catches for 40 yards, probably a TD. Minimum. That goes back to last year too, when he first began to develop into a reliable player.

Granted, DeSean's unique skill set undoubtedly helps open things up for Maclin. Defenses basically have to account for the deep ball at all times, which means pushing their safeties back and often some sort of double team. The threat of Jackson scoring from anywhere on the field automatically means less attention is being paid to everybody else. Add Vick into the mix, maybe even McCoy, and Maclin seriously benefits from the surrounding talent.

He's more than capable of getting beyond those safeties himself though. He may not be quite as explosive as Jackson, but Maclin is a big play guy, as evidenced by his four receptions over 40 yards this season, three for touchdown. However, where he seems to excel that perhaps Jackson does not as much, is when the field shrinks. Five of his touchdowns came inside the red zone, compared to one for the little guy.

That's also part of it. We always talk about how amazing the "diminutive" wide receiver is. While he may be a more dynamic player overall based on his strengths in other phases of the game, like returning kicks or as a runner, Maclin's combination of size and speed arguably makes him the more versatile wide receiver. Jackson simply hasn't been as much of a threat in short yardage and red zone situations, whereas Maclin has challenged in those areas and vertically.

Of course, what we've been alluding to the entire time is there is an X-factor involved with DeSean that goes beyond measurables. He puts defenses in an extraordinary bind. He can stretch the field as well as anybody in the game, and any time he gets the ball in open space, be it behind the line of scrimmage or 50 yards later, look out. There's even something to be said for his swagger.

Speaking purely from lining up at the wide receiver position, is he better than Jeremy Maclin? While the jury is still out, it's starting to appear he may not be. We've seen Jackson taken out of several of these games, but Maclin routinely brings something to the table. It's hard to say which is more important—the devastating big play threat or the total package—but while DeSean gets the highlight reels and the endorsement deals, Maclin just keeps on filling the stat sheet.

Photo by Jamie Squire / Getty Images