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Fan-Demonium: The WR Depth Chart

Posted May 16, 2012


DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are the starting receivers and they have a chance to do some special things in 2012.

Jackson's level of play was hampered by contract concerns in the last couple of years, but that is all in the past now. He is a happy, confident player and ready to show the world that the Eagles made the right move by paying him big bucks. I fully expect a big year from him.

Maclin is healthy. This time last year Maclin, the Eagles, and his doctors were all playing the guessing game, and not a fun version. Maclin was sick and no one knew exactly what was going on. Thankfully, the doctors did figure the situation out and Maclin came through it with flying colors. This summer he gets to concentrate purely on football.

Maclin had a terrific season in 2010 and looked to be on the verge of becoming a top-shelf receiver. His game regressed a bit last year. His touchdown catches fell from 10 to five. His yards per catch figure dipped slightly. There was a costly drop in the Atlanta game on a late fourth-down play. There was a critical fumble late in the Niners game as the team was approaching field goal range and trailing by just two points. The Eagles lost both games. The overall numbers were OK, but Maclin did not play at the same level as in 2010.

Can he get back to the 2010 level? I think so. He has a full offseason to work out and get his body just the way he wants it. Last year, Maclin was a bit light. He wants to get bigger and stronger for 2012. Maclin also will have mini-camps and training camp this summer. That will help him work on his timing with Michael Vick and just to improve some little things. Jerry Rice was a great player because he knew how to play and how to practice. Little things can make a big difference in the NFL. I'm really curious to see just how good Maclin can be.

Jason Avant remains one of the better slot receivers in the league. He runs great routes. He has great hands. Avant is quick and tough and loves working the middle of the field. He knows how to get open and playing in traffic isn't a big deal to him. Avant is the team's best blocking wide receiver and does whatever he can to help the team win.

After the big three, things are wide open.

Riley Cooper should be the number four receiver. He is entering his third season. The Eagles have let him start five games over the last two years so that shows you that they believe in his talent and potential. The problem is that he didn't make a major jump from 2010 to 2011. He did get better, but didn't show the kind of growth that was hoped for. To be fair, Cooper didn't have the benefit of a normal offseason. He showed up at Lehigh and was cramming months worth of work into a couple of weeks.

You might wonder what the big deal is. Maclin didn't even have training camp to get ready. He just showed up for the season. The difference is that Cooper is still a project. He doesn't have the extensive football background that some others do. Maclin and Jackson had more impact as college freshmen than Cooper did as a college senior, if that gives you an idea of the situation. This isn't a question of talent, though. Cooper has NFL size and athleticism. That's why the Eagles picked him and have expectations for him.


Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He was a finalist for Philadelphia's Most Influential Blogger Award and is the Editor of

The hope is that Cooper will take a big step forward this year. He's got a full offseason. He's healthy. He's now got two years of NFL playing time under his belt. 2012 will be a pivotal year in Cooper's career. Potential only carries you so far. He has 23 catches and two touchdowns in his career. He needs to post numbers like that (or hopefully better) this season. Beyond numbers, Cooper just needs to show that he can deliver when called upon. With his size, Cooper should be a big help in the red zone. That hasn't been the case so far. This is the kind of thing Cooper can do this season to make his presence felt. As the number four receiver, he's not going to catch 50 passes. He does need to make some impact plays.

For the first time, Cooper will have someone pushing him for playing time and possibly his job. The Eagles spent a sixth-round pick on receiver Marvin McNutt in the recent NFL Draft. Cooper is 6-3 and 222 pounds. McNutt is 6-3 and 216 pounds. The Eagles wanted another big guy in the mix. I hope people don't focus on the fact that McNutt was taken in the sixth round. That deserves an asterisk beside it. This was a very, very deep receiver class. There were good players that went undrafted. The Eagles strongly considered taking McNutt in the fifth round, but since there were more good receiver prospects than tackle prospects, they went with Dennis Kelly first and then sweated it out until the next pick. Luckily, McNutt was still there for the taking.

Like Cooper, McNutt is somewhat of a project. The difference is that Cooper was more baseball player than football star for a long time. McNutt is a football guy. He was just a quarterback that didn't move to receiver until his sophomore season at Iowa. He still finished his career with 170 catches and 28 touchdowns. McNutt has the size, athleticism and football skills to be a good role player in the NFL. He might be good enough to become a starter in the future. We'll have to see how he develops.

At the recent rookie camp there were a few people who noted that McNutt was slow in getting off the line. That is an area where he needs some work. At the same time, understand why the Eagles wanted him. Maclin and Jackson are the speedsters. McNutt is here to add size to the receiving corps. McNutt was a very good red zone player at Iowa. I'm sure the Eagles noticed that fact and it was part of the reason they wanted him. McNutt is able to use his body to wall off defensive backs and give his quarterback a target. He can also go up in the air and play the ball up high. McNutt is a big guy that plays big. It used to drive me nuts to watch Hank Baskett. He wanted to be Marvin Harrison for some reason. Big guys need to play big.

McNutt is talented enough and polished enough that it won't surprise me if he does seriously push Cooper in 2012. McNutt isn't coming to Philly to sit and watch. He was Iowa's workhorse receiver. He's going to want to get on the field and be part of the passing game. He must show that he can block and play special teams if he wants to get playing time. He can't focus just on offense.

Chad Hall has two years of NFL experience under his belt. He is versatile and will do whatever the coaches ask. The problem is that he's just not as fast as a small receiver needs to be. He's quick and tough, but can't deliver big plays. I think he's in for a real tough battle to keep his roster spot this year.

Mardy Gilyard could be the first guy to push Hall for his spot. Gilyard has NFL experience and talent. He was a great kick returner in college and could be a big help to the Eagles in that area. Gilyard must show that he can be a good role player on offense as well as a returner in order to push for a roster spot.

Ronald Johnson was a star receiver at USC. I'm surprised that he's struggled to make it in the NFL so far. Johnson has OK size. He was a good returner in college. He was a solid, but not great athlete. He could be a good slot receiver and returner for the Eagles. He spent last year on the practice squad so he knows the playbook. In that regard, Johnson has a leg up on the competition.

Undrafted receiver Damaris Johnson could push for a spot. Everyone was impressed with his quickness and elusiveness in the recent rookie camp. He is small at 5-7 and 175 pounds, but Johnson uses his build to his advantage. He makes a small target for defenders. He is lightning quick and has good speed. Johnson was incredibly productive as a runner, receiver and returner at Tulsa.

It sure looks like the first five will be Jackson, Maclin, Avant, Cooper and McNutt. The Eagles are likely to keep a sixth receiver. That could be Hall, Gilyard, RoJo or Damaris Johnson. Heck, it could be a player on another team. The last spot will go to the player who earns it. Last year, the Eagles hoped Johnnie Lee Higgins would have that spot, but he didn't play well at Lehigh or in the preseason. He was cut. Somebody needs to step up and win the job. Damaris Johnson is the hot name for now, but don't sleep on Gilyard. He's had a taste of success in the NFL and may be desperate to get that back. At the bottom of the roster, the most desperate players can often be the guys who win the battles.

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