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Injury Gives WRs Shot To Shine

As it turned out, and was announced after practice, Riley Cooper suffered a fractured collarbone, and while there is no timetable for return, you can safely expect that Cooper will be on the field at some point this season.

For now, though, Cooper's absence creates a void. The Eagles could go out and sign a veteran if they wanted, for there are plenty of names on the streets. It's a quick fix, although not necessarily one that helps the team the most in the immediate future.

Instead of doing that, look for the Eagles to go with what they have and to evaluate the young talent on hand at wide receiver. They have plenty of fresh legs in training camp, so instead of lamenting Cooper's loss, the Eagles will give more reps to players like sixth-round draft pick Marvin McNutt, who had a big day on Saturday, the first for the players in pads.

McNutt didn't do much to distinguish himself in the spring practices as he absorbed the new offense and took baby steps in his development. He looked a step behind for good reason: In the NFL, any instant of hesitation is an incompletion for a wide receiver in a timing-based offense. You need to get to a spot and be there at the right time.

So for the first couple of months of watching McNutt, it was obvious that he was still thinking his way through his routes and, thus, was an instant behind. When Cooper went down and McNutt had more reps in the practice, he was terrific. He ran crossing routes and caught the ball with confidence. He went over the top of Joselio Hanson on a sideline route and snatched the ball for a catch. He was a receiver quarterbacks Michael Vick and Mike Kafka looked to and threw to, and McNutt provided reliable.

The Eagles have long held the stance that an injury means a chance for another player to step up and prove himself, and that is the case here. McNutt, Chad Hall, Mardy Gilyard, Damaris Johnson and Tiger Jones will have more opportunities to convince the coaching staff that they belong on this 53-man roster.

There is no panic here. Cooper's injury is a bummer for a third-year receiver who really showed improvement in the spring. Cooper figures to be the fourth receiver here as well as a core member of Bobby April's special teams.

Without Cooper, we'll see how the rest of the wide receivers corps plays. If the Eagles don't like what they see, they have the ability to make a move. There is plenty of cap room to sign a veteran, or to add one who is going to be released later in August. There is, as history suggests, no reason to rush out and make a move right now.

We know injuries are going to happen, and the Eagles suffered a loss on Saturday. They also announced that defensive end Jason Babin has a strained calf and that defensive tackle Antonio Dixon suffered cramps during practice on a hot summer day in front of 6,000-plus fans at the Goodman Campus of Lehigh University.

General manager Howie Roseman and head coach Andy Reid have a short list of players to reach out to in the case of emergency, and this is not one of those times. Not yet. The Eagles want to see McNutt, and hope that he is as good as what he showed on Saturday. They need to take a long peek at the other unknowns here, the receivers who have only a whiff of what this offense is all about.

The message, then, is to stay calm. A 90-man roster affords teams the flexibility to carry an extra receiver or two, just to take a long look. That's what the Eagles are doing now. They're going to turn the negative of Cooper's injury into a positive situation and see how other players -- who have been told since their Pop Warner days -- that they are only "a play away" from becoming starters, or key players, or members of a 53-man roster.

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