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Who Will Step Up At Wide Receiver?

Posted Jul 16, 2014

There’s no question that the Eagles’ corps of wide receivers looks considerably different heading into the 2014 season than it did at the end of the 2013. Gone are DeSean Jackson, the team’s leading receiver, and Jason Avant, the most-experienced member of the group. In are a pair of second-day draft picks in Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff. For wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell, the charge to replace the production and leadership is one that is already taking place.

“I think (leadership) comes from everybody,” Bicknell said. “I think it comes from everybody being a little bit more comfortable in the offense. Truthfully, I think when guys are coming in now, they’re seeing people that have a little bit more leadership skills because they know a little but more about what’s happening, how the offense is run. I think we’ve always had good guys in that room. I think the guys that are coming up now, between Riley (Cooper) and Jeremy (Maclin), and really leadership can come from everywhere. So the guys that work real hard. We brought a few guys in that are real hard workers, that study. I think the whole group kind of leads.”

Maclin, of course, presents the other major difference between last year’s group of receivers and the stable that will prepare to race into the 2014 season. Lost for the year because of a torn ACL last summer, Maclin, so far, appears to be on track to regaining the form that saw him join Mike Quick as the only other player in franchise history with at least 200 catches and 25 touchdowns in his first four seasons.

“I think there are certain times when you see him and everything looks exactly the way I remember it,” Bicknell said of Maclin. “There are times where he will come out of a break and it’s almost like, it’s not being hurt, it’s you get your legs underneath you, you have all those different things that are going through an athlete’s mind. I’m sure that some of that he’s working through, but there’s a good percentage of the time that he looks exactly the way he looked when we had him a year ago before he got hurt. He’s done an unbelievable job.”

Meanwhile, Maclin’s ascent to a leadership role goes back to what he did last season, even when he had no chance of getting on the field.

“Jeremy was still involved,” Bicknell recalled. “He was there. He was at (nearly) every meeting. I can’t say every meeting, obviously, with some of his rehab. But I think the way that he attacked what happened to him, which was really difficult, I mean all of us stood for a second and were like, ‘OK, now what do we do?’ Immediately, you have to go on and try to find that next player and all that. He went right to work. He got himself so that he really hasn’t missed a rep out here. He was still in meetings off and on, but for a good amount, especially the last three or four weeks, once he started feeling better. He did a great job for us.”

With Maclin, Cooper, the pair of draft picks and an interesting group of other contenders, Bicknell believes the roster is ready to pick up where the group left off last season.

“Production comes with who’s going to come out and make plays,” Bicknell said. “I have a great confidence that we have a lot of guys in that room who can make plays. I think Riley Cooper, last year Riley, jeez I’m not sure he knew exactly what he could do. Jeremy Maclin, I think the years before had unbelievable production, so I fully expect him to have it. Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, Arrelious Benn, Brad Smith, Ifeanyi Momah. A lot of guys are fighting for that position right now and a lot of them are out there making a lot of plays. But someone’s going to make the production.”

The inclusion of Momah by Bicknell is interesting, considering the 6-foot-7 receiver was released by the Eagles last summer, only to return in January.

"Oh, I definitely think he has a chance,” Bicknell said of Momah. “When we actually start playing and we're getting press coverage and playing actual games you'll be able to judge better. I don’t know what he was doing (during the season), to be honest with you. He left here, but he wasn’t with us during the season. He came back a completely different player. Really good job of coming back and playing. Obviously a lot of things have to happen but he's done a good job."

Benn, meanwhile, went through the same torn ACL rehab process as Maclin. Acquired via trade by the Eagles last offseason, the former second-round pick presents an interesting skill set for the Eagles.

“Arrelious is big. He’s fast. He’s done an excellent job in OTAs and this time right now of catching the football,” said Bicknell. “But again, we haven’t seen him in games and that’s the hardest things with a lot of these guys right now, especially the ones who haven’t been here, of seeing them play in games. It’s going to be interesting to see him play in preseason, but he’s got excellent size, he can run, he can catch the ball. He’s done really excellent things with the ball in his hands in the past. So I think he offers big-play ability.”

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