As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Philadelphia Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin has suffered a torn ACL and will miss the 2013 season. Season-ending injuries are the most dreaded things to hear about for players, coaches and fans alike.
Yes, to put it mildly, this sucks. Maclin was being counted on to play a huge part in the offense and was looking forward to proving his worth in the final year of his contract. Now he faces a year of rehabilitation and will likely have to settle for a one year “prove yourself” deal in 2014.
It’s unfortunate, but these things are all too common in the NFL. And for now, the show must go on.
The QB competition is what will continue to dominate the headlines during camp and preseason, but now the competition at the wide receiver position suddenly becomes a close second.
Who will replace Maclin in the starting lineup opposite DeSean Jackson?
Well, the leading candidate is the fourth-year player once dubbed “Sunshine” by his teammates(reference to the character with the long flowing hair in the movie Remember the Titans).
Riley Cooper was the next man in for Maclin during Sunday’s training camp. That doesn’t mean it’s set in stone necessarily because “camp Chip” is all about open competition and the best players will play.
However, he is the most logical one for many reasons.
For one, at 6′ 3″ and 220 lbs, he has the size Kelly covets in players. For two, and perhaps most importantly, Cooper is a good blocker. His blocking ability was a strength in college and his former coach, Urban Meyer, said he was the best WR he’d ever seen as a perimeter blocker.
Check out this somewhat crappy YouTube video of Cooper taking out the safety on this play…
The video isn’t the greatest, but you can certainly see Cooper going “all-in” on the block and devastating the safety who came up to the line of scrimmage. That kind of stuff is what will endear him to Kelly very quickly.
Thirdly, Cooper’s main competition to replace Maclin is Arrelious Benn, Damaris Johnson, Jason Avant and rookie Russell Shepard, who’s starting to garner some attention.
Right off the bat, we can remove Johnson from the equation. There is no way he will start opposite DeSean because we can’t have two “smurfs” as our starters. There would be absolutely no blocking help.
I would scratch Avant next because, over his career, he’s had a few opportunities to start on the outside while filling in due to injuries. Avant is a good blocker as well, but his skills as a receiver are much better suited to the slot. Out wide, he struggled and was a non-factor.
Benn, if he can get healthy, will likely be Cooper’s stiffest competition. But, getting healthy and staying healthy seems to be a challenge for him. Plus, Benn is another guy that’s better suited for the slot position and it is believed that Kelly envisioned him there as well as being one of his versatile guys that he would line up at a variety of positions.
Shepard may be getting some buzz, but the odds are heavily stacked against an undrafted rookie free agent winning a starting position.
This mainly leaves Cooper. Cooper filled in for Jackson at the end of last season and started the final five games. In those games, he had 13 catches for 138 yards and two TDs. In total last season he had 23 catches for 248 yards and three scores.
Those aren’t exactly stellar figures, but those games were during a time when the starting lineup on offense resembled what you would see during the fourth preseason game.
There is the option to look outside of the team for Maclin’s replacement, but Howie Roseman stated that the Eagles will be looking to promote from within…which is the way it should be.
Furthermore, there are no free agent receivers out there who I’m even remotely interested in. The best available are guys like Brandon Lloyd, Laurent Robinson, Mike Sims-Walker, Austin Collie, Brandon Stokley and Donald Jones.
Ehhh, I’ll give a big “no thanks” to any of them. I’d rather see what the young guys have.
At the end of the day, Cooper is who will most likely be the starter opposite Jackson. However, the competition at wide receiver will surely be a hot topic this summer and as always, things are subject to change.
Actually, I’m fairly excited to see what a guy like Cooper can do. His size and physicality will be a nice compliment to what Jackson brings.
They could form an ideal duo, especially if we see more of this from Cooper…
(Forgive the music, just mute it!)