After looking at quarterback and the backfield, our midseason review moves on to the guys on the outside ...
1. Can Jackson And Celek Break 1,000 Yards?
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson and tight end Brent Celek each have a real chance to break the 1,000-yard receiving threshold this season. Not surprisingly, the most likely to get there is Jackson, who has amassed 465 yards in six games. If that production continues, Jackson is projected to reach nearly 1,250 yards by season's end. Jackson has been quarterback Michael Vick's favorite target this season, as Vick has looked for the receiver no less than eight times a game. If those numbers hold, Jackson could be in for a career year in both yardage and receptions.
Meanwhile, Celek is in the midst of one of his best seasons. His 25 catches for 357 yards through six games are second only to the start of his 2009 season. Despite the fact that Celek stays in to block more than many of the premier tight ends in the league, he has been targeted 41 times this season, hauling in 25 catches for 357 yards. That yardage is good for second-most among tight ends through six games.
One major reason for his impressive numbers is his size, as defenders rarely bring Celek down on the first try. According to Pro Football Focus, Celek is tops in the NFC in yards after the catch with 175. Celek projects to catch 67 passes for 952 yards this season, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that he will exceed those numbers if he continues to play as he has been.
2. Where Are The Big Plays?
One of the hallmarks of head coach Andy Reid's tenure has been a big-play offense capable of scoring at any time and from anywhere on the field. The Eagles are normally among the league leaders in this category, but this season has seen a dip in the number of big plays generated by the offense. Through six games, the Eagles have only three plays over 40 yards, putting them in a 12-way tie for ninth place in the league. And the offense has 20 plays of 20 yards or more, good for 12th in the league.
Still, there is reason for optimism. Despite the slow start, the Eagles have big play threats at every position. Jackson, Celek and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin are each averaging over 14 yards per catch, and five Eagles have a reception over 20 yards. While the huge plays have been less frequent, seeing wide receiver Jeremy Maclin sprint for a 70-yard touchdown against the Lions was a nice reminder of what the Eagles offense is capable of.
3. Is Jeremy Maclin Back?
Maclin went into Training Camp this summer with a lot to feel good about. Finally fully healthy after an offseason health scare in 2011, Maclin was pegged by many for a breakout season. In the first game of the season, Maclin posted 96 yards and a touchdown, but he also suffered two separate hip injuries during the game. Those injuries limited him against the Ravens and Giants, and caused him to miss the Week 3 contest against the Cardinals.
But over the past two weeks he has 11 catches for 169 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown against the Lions. With a bye week to rest, there is every reason to believe Maclin can return to full health in time to help the Eagles in the second half of the season. The Eagles will need Maclin to be at his best going into next week against the Falcons. In three career games against Atlanta, Maclin has 28 receptions for 413 yards and four touchdowns.
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