For a talented group of receivers that includes DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, this Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver corps is not producing very many yards after the catch (YAC).
Andy Reid and the Eagles have been running a version of the West Coast Offense for years here. One of the longtime staples of this style of offense is setting up your receivers to get yards after the catch.
Quick inside slants, bubble screens and other short to intermediate passes that are designed to get the ball into the hands of your playmakers out in space are the backbone for this type of offense.
However, that seems to be severely lacking this year for the Eagles.
Where have these plays been? Do they not run the inside slants too often because Jackson and Maclin are smaller receivers that just aren’t built to take the kind of hit you might get when going over the middle?
We can’t really point to the offensive line as the problem because these plays would actually help the struggling line’s performance. These plays are usually 3 – 5 step drops and get the ball out quickly.
It is dangerous to go over the middle of a defense on those inside slants and shallow crosses, as DeSean Jackson can attest after being concussed last season on such a route. However, it is necessary for this offense to maximize its effectiveness.
Jackson and Maclin’s best attribute is their speed. If they can find ways to get these guys the ball with a little room to run it would make a world of difference in this offense. The question is, are these guys “tough enough” to do it?
Right now, according to YAC stats from Pro Football Focus, the Eagles’ WR corps consisting of Jackson, Maclin, Damaris Johnson and Jason Avant have a total of 226 yards after the catch so far this year.
To put this in perspective, Percy Harvin has almost twice as much (438) …by himself!
Jackson has 78 yards after the catch, Maclin has 82, Johnson has 39 and Avant has 27. Compared to the rest of the league, Maclin ranks 55th and Jackson 59th. PFF only has the top 109 receivers listed and neither Johnson nor Avant are on it so they don’t even rank in this category.
Percy Harvin is all of 5′ 11″, 184 lbs — a little bigger than Jackson but a little smaller than Maclin — so does size really matter? Plus, little big man Wes Welker is right behind Harvin in YAC stats with 355 (still more than the entire Eagles WR corps).
As a matter of fact, there are 6 individual wide receivers with more yards after the catch than the entire Eagles WR corps.
In 2009 and 2010, the last year of Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick’s renaissance year, Jackson ranked 11th and 13th in the NFL in yards after the catch. Even in his down year last season, he still came in ranked higher than this year so far (36th).
In Maclin’s three seasons so far, he’s been ranked 30th, 38th and 31st respectively.
There are multiple factors as to why the YAC has been down for these guys…most notably the play calling by the coaches and the play at the QB position. I’m not trying to say Jackson and Maclin aren’t tough guys, but I do wonder how much the coaches are tailoring their play-calling because they aren’t confident in their willingness to go across the middle.
I mean, it’s not as if this concept would be foreign to Reid and Mornhinweg so logic would dictate there is some reason they’re not calling these kinds of plays, right?
But, what could be that reason, especially if it would help a struggling offensive line? Is it their confidence in Vick being decisive and accurate enough? Or is it because the receivers aren’t physical enough?
Whatever the reason, they need to figure out how to get the ball in these guys’ hands to make a play. Put Jackson and Maclin in a position to where they can utilize their speed and elusiveness while simultaneously reducing the pressure on the OL to hold blocks.
It’s time to start playing harder…and smarter.