The Eagles entered the 2012 season fully expecting to contend for a division title and make a run in the postseason. The season will end this Sunday when the Eagles take on the New York Giants. But last Sunday's game against the Redskins showed why the Eagles could be back on the prowl next season.
Back in April 2009, the Eagles took advantage of a falling star so to speak. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was expected to be a top 10 selection in the NFL Draft. Every year, there is a player expected to be taken high, but for one reason or another does not get his name called as early as predicted. In 2009, Maclin was that player, but the Eagles ended the slide when they traded up two spots to nab him with the 19th overall selection.
In the second round of that draft, the Eagles waited patiently as one of the youngest, most explosive running backs remained on the board. LeSean McCoy, the gregarious youngster better known as Shady, was quickly poached by the Eagles when their turn came up in the second round with the 53rd overall pick.
On Sunday, both Maclin and McCoy sparked the Eagles offense. Maclin hauled in a beautiful 27-yard touchdown pass as part of an eight-catch, 116-yard performance. It was Maclin's third 100-yard game of the season. For the first time in his career, Maclin had 70 or more receiving yards in three straight games. Two weeks earlier in Tampa Bay, Maclin had 104 yards and caught the game-winning touchdown reception as time expired. Maclin said it was his first walkoff, game-winning touchdown at any level of his career.
No Eagle in his first four seasons has more receptions than Maclin, who has 254 with still one week to go. Maclin is also third in receiving yards (3,431) and fifth in touchdowns (25) among Eagles receivers in their first four seasons. Maclin's first four NFL seasons have put him among elite NFL company. Only eight players, including Maclin, have at least 55 catches and 750 receiving yards in each of his first four NFL seasons. Larry Fitzgerald, Marvin Harrison, Sterling Sharpe and Randy Moss are some of the other names on that list.
Maclin's successful start to his career has not always been an easy one. Prior to the 2011 season, Maclin was severely ill and at one point believed to have lymphoma. Testing showed that his illness was not life-threatening and Maclin played in 13 games in 2011.
"He's battled through a lot of things over the last couple of years," head coach Andy Reid said. "I'm proud of him for stepping up the way he has. He's done a good job there."
Meanwhile, McCoy has only shouldered the burden of continuing the lineage of tremendously talented running backs in Philadelphia. From Ricky Watters to Duce Staley to Brian Westbrook, the Eagles have churned out one all-purpose back after the next for more than a decade. Westbrook left following the 2009 season as the franchise's all-time leader in all-purpose yards, second in rushing yards and third in touchdowns. McCoy ensured that the team didn't miss a beat as he recorded his first 1,000-yard season in 2010 and followed that up with a historic 2011 campaign. McCoy earned All-Pro honors after leading the league with 17 rushing and 20 total touchdowns. Both of those numbers set new franchise benchmarks.
This season, however, has not gone as McCoy planned. Injuries along the offensive line have limited his effectiveness. He had just two touchdowns on the ground and five total scores when he suffered a concussion in the closing minutes of the Week 11 loss at Washington. For the first time in his career, McCoy missed more than a game. After a four-week healing process, McCoy returned in fine fashion with 122 yards from scrimmage. He had a simply disgusting cutback run late in the fourth quarter which showcased his elite cutting ability (and why his Twitter handle is @CutonDime25). He also had the smarts to get out of bounds after converting a fourth-down situation late when the Eagles had no timeouts.
McCoy's performance Sunday whetted Eagles fans' appetites for a return to the discussion of the elite running backs in 2013. McCoy only plans to take a short amount of time off at the end of the season before getting back on the grind.
"I made myself a promise that I'm not even going to take that long of a break off, maybe two to three weeks and I'm back at it," McCoy said. "There's so many thing you want to do better to help yourself and help the team out."
After waiting all year for these special few months, the Eagles season will come to an end Sunday at MetLife Stadium. However, two outstanding players, who were part of the same draft class, offered a reason why the wait for next season could be well worth it.
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