Eagles Camp Countdown: #7 – Wide Receivers
The Eagles bring 12 wide receivers into training camp, but the top three have their positions locked up. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant will be Philadelphia’s top three.
After that, Riley Cooper, Chad Hall, Marvin McNutt, Mardy Gilyard and Damaris Johnson should be in the mix for two or three roster spots. Ronald Johnson, McKay Jacobson, Jamel Hamler and Elvis Akpla are longshots to make the roster.
The best news for the Eagles is that both Jackson and Maclin figure to improve over last season. Jackson caught 58 passes for 961 yards and four touchdowns, but his play was inconsistent as his lack of a contract extension impacted his attitude throughout the year.
Maclin caught 63 balls for 859 yards and five touchdowns, but was behind schedule on his conditioning coming into the season due to an offseason illness that he and the Eagles feared was lymphoma at one point.
Jackson comes into the season at 25 years of age, while Maclin is 24. Both should have a great chance of going over 1,000 yards this year and in the future as they hit the prime of their careers.
Avant has been a reliable slot receiver for each of the last three years, averaging 48 catches for 613 yards and never dropping below 570 yards. There’s no reason to think that production won’t continue.
Riley Cooper enters his third season with just 23 catches for 431 yards and two touchdowns through his first two years in the league. This is an important training camp for the former fifth round pick, who now has some legitimate competition with similar size.
Cooper is 6-foot-3 and weighs in at 222 pounds, but Marvin McNutt, the Eagles’ sixth round pick, stands just as tall and gives up just six pounds.
McNutt caught 82 passes for 1,315 yards and 12 touchdowns during his senior year at Iowa and certainly poses a threat to take a roster spot.
While Cooper and McNutt aren’t necessarily going head-to-head, it’s hard to imagine the Eagles cutting both.
Chad Hall is in a similar position to Cooper, as the 26-year-old has gotten into 15 games over the last two years and caught 14 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns while rushing 12 times for 42 yards. Hall can return punts, and the Eagles have valued his versatility
However, at 5-foot-8 and 187 pounds and without off-the-charts speed, Hall doesn’t have the measurables that guarantee him a long career.
Damaris Johnson is listed at the same height and 12 pounds lighter, but is more physically gifted. Johnson caught 57 passes for 872 yards and four touchdowns at Tulsa in 2010, but missed his senior year due to off-field issues.
Johnson is also a prolific returner, and ran 55 times for 560 yards and seven touchdowns in 2010.
The wild card of the group of wideouts vying for those two or three spots may be Mardy Gilyard, who is not a draft pick of the Eagles but has some NFL experience. Gilyard played in 11 games for the Rams two years ago, with 6 receptions for 63 yards.
Gilyard was a strong returner in college, and has an average build for a wide receiver at 6-foot-1 and 187 pounds.
Of the final four players, Ronald Johnson has the best chance to find a way onto the roster, or at least the practice squad. The USC product spent 15 games on the practice squad last year and made the active roster for the last game of the season after Kurt Coleman went onto the injured reserve.
The Eagles will keep Jackson, Maclin, Avant, McNutt and Damaris Johnson. McNutt beats out Cooper, who hasn’t shown much over the last two years. If Johnson keeps his head on straight he will be a fun weapon for Reid to use a few plays a game, in addition to his impressive return skills.