On May 11, Jeremy Maclin will turn 24 years old. For the Eagles wide receiver, this year's birthday will not only be one of celebration, but also of reflection. A year ago, Maclin was battling a mystery illness, feared at times to be Lymphoma, that sapped him of his energy, his weight and his ability to hold down food. Maclin was in such rough condition that, combined with the odd uncertainty of what ailed him, his career, and life, was at stake.
Fast forward 12 months and Maclin is rid of the (still undiagnosed) mystery disease completely, with another productive season in the rearview mirror.
"Some days I kind of sit back and think about it," Maclin said Tuesday during his attendance at a Philadelphia Eagles City High School All-Star Game practice at the NovaCare Complex. "Like I said in the past, I'm blessed to have everything be ok with me. I'm just ready to look forward and get this thing rolling."
This thing, of course, is the 2012 season, for which Maclin has high expectations of himself and his teammates. Unburdened by everything that befell him last year, Maclin has been able to spend his entire offseason in Philadelphia, working diligently on improving his body and doing his part to improve the Eagles offense with his teammates.
When Maclin arrived at Lehigh for training camp last summer, he was noticeably skinny, his weight as low as 180 pounds at times, he said. Now, he's up to a strong 205, seven pounds more than his playing weight last season. In reality, that Maclin was able to have such a productive season without having much of an offseason at all, let alone preseason action, was startling.
Surprisingly, Maclin was noticeably more productive in the first half of the season than he was in the second half. Through the team's first eight games, Maclin recorded 44 catches for 606 yards, in contrast to the 19 catches and 253 yards he recorded over the final eight games.
The obvious asterisk to those numbers is that Maclin missed three of the final eight games with shoulder and hamstring problems. That's why, Maclin says, increasing his strength this offseason is so vital.
"Luckily I'm healthy now and hopefully I can get stronger, faster, bigger to prevent those things from happening this year," Maclin said, when asked if staying on the field is a priority in 2012. "Up until last year, that wasn't a problem, so it's just unfortunate that happened last year.
"He probably had too many reps early," said head coach Andy Reid. "He's a convincing guy. I think looking back on it, we probably should have backed off him a little bit, which is my responsibility to do that. He did well. I can see that he's much stronger right now."
After last season, there was a question as to whether Maclin would have his running mate back in 2012. With DeSean Jackson re-signed earlier this offseason, Maclin once again expects big things for an offense that has ranked in the top 10 in each of his three seasons with the Eagles.
"In this league, you need two," Maclin said. "You need two guys that can do it all. You need two go-to receivers, so it definitely makes it easier for each other and makes it easier for the organization and the offense and the team to kind of jel when you have that. I was happy. I'm excited to see what we can do this year."
While Maclin's excitement for the upcoming season is obvious, it's hard not to once again think of how stark the contrast is between where the wide receiver's hopes currently stand as opposed to last year.
Now, Maclin can focus solely on his job, and that's as a good a birthday present as he could ask for.
"I'm completely healthy so I can't really complain about that," he said. "We're here as a team working and trying to get better, so I couldn't really ask for anything else. I'm definitely excited for this upcoming season."
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