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Injury Puts Wide Receivers Back On Hot Spot

Is this corps of wide receivers good enough, the Eagles ask themselves every day, to win a Super Bowl? That is all that matters. Can these wide receivers, in crunch time, against premier cornerbacks in press coverage, get free and make plays for Donovan McNabb and the offense on a consistent basis?

Questions, questions. The alarm that went off in every Eagles fan's brain and continues to ring with the news that Kevin Curtis has a sports hernia and will be sidelined for an indefinite period of time is very real.

Are the Eagles good enough at the receiver positions?

We're going to find out. Maybe not Friday when the Eagles play New England in preseason game No. 3 without Curtis and Reggie Brown -- who may not play again until the regular season opener against St. Louis -- but very soon thereafter. The Eagles are taking the right approach and showing confidence in their corps, understanding that Jason Avant, Hank Baskett and Greg Lewis have plenty of experience in the system, and that DeSean Jackson is one of the more promising young receivers to come along in quite some time here.

But until those players go out and do it, the fans are going to worry. And the Eagles are going to be on the spot: Have they prepared enough for an injury at wide receiver?

First things first here. Brown has a hamstring injury and is expected to be fully recovered from that injury and his Achilles injury before September 7 rolls around. Curtis will soon have surgery – Thursday morning – and then is going to play the rehab game. How much time is he going to miss? Two games? Four games? The first half of the season?

Nobody knows. Curtis needs to make sure that when he rehabs, he comes back all the way and that when he steps back on the field, he is able to contribute.

Without Curtis, the Eagles must rely on Brown to be a more consistent, go-to receiver. Right away. No down weeks. No working slowly into the offense. When September 7 comes, Brown has to be ready.

As for the others, well, they must step up. Everyone has to step up. Losing Curtis is a blow. He has the deep speed, the hands, the toughness to help this offense get vertical and stretch defenses.

Who has those skills without Curtis? Lewis has hands and good quickness in and out of his routes. Jackson is a burner with terrific hands that we can all see so early in his career. Baskett is a size receiver who brings a good package of skills to the equation. Avant controls the hash areas nicely with his sharp cuts and strong hands.

It will be an adjustment for the offense. Andy Reid isn't going to change what he does necessarily, but he has to be flexible enough to tweak things. He did it in 2006 when McNabb was injured and Jeff Garcia took the reins. Maybe the Eagles run a little bit more now. Maybe the routes are more specialized for each receiver's strengths. Maybe McNabb takes off and creates more with his legs. Maybe L.J. Smith becomes more of a focal point. Maybe Brian Westbrook splits out as receiver more and the Eagles use the depth they have with Lorenzo Booker and Correll Buckhalter in the backfield.

And, certainly, the Eagles are going to keep their options open at the position. If they can upgrade, they will. That is the mantra here. You can throw out the idea of Joe Horn, as Reid basically did on Wednesday when his one-word answer, "No," said volumes when asked if he intended to bring in another receiver at this point.

The Eagles are going to go with what they have and see how it works on Friday night. As we have all learned, things change very quickly in the NFL. A good performance here or a poor one there change perspectives immediately.

For now, and through Friday, the Eagles have a group of receivers they truly, honestly like. Jackson starts for the injured Brown, and Lewis and Baskett rotate in for Curtis. Avant stays in the slot. Westbrook and Booker will displace all over the formation.

And Brown and Curtis are going to spend their hours in Philadelphia, working on regaining full health and returning to the field. All observations take a different tone from this point forward with 77 catches, 1,110 yards and a fine all-around game out of the lineup for the forseeable future.

The big question comes back to the wide receivers for the offense once again. That alarm you hear is only going to get louder unless the receiving corps, each and every one of them, steps forward and delivers.

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