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Riffing On WRs, Vick And Eagles Playmakers

Jeremy Maclin is a starting wide receiver and doesn't have any intention of giving the job away. DeSean Jackson is an emerging standout who, truth be told, needs the bal in his hands more on an every-week basis. Brian Westbrook has not been used quite as much as in the past, but he is still playing at a very high level. Brent Celek is among the league's best tight ends. On and on it goes. The Eagles have plenty of weapons. Where, then, does Michael Vick fit into the equation?

It is a question worth exploring, in just a moment. First, let's discuss the wide receivers. Kevin Curtis underwent arthroscopic knee surgery this week and, while Andy Reid described what doctors found in the knee as relatively minor, surgery is surgery and Curtis is out an indefinite period of time. Reid is hopeful that Curtis comes back this season. We shall see.

When approached at his locker after Saturday's practice and asked about Curtis' injury, Maclin didn't flinch. He is the starter. He knows it. And ...

"I don't intend for that situation to change," said Maclin.

April's first-round draft pick is quickly becoming a pro. He followed his 6-catch, 142-yard, 2-touchdown breakout game against Tampa Bay with a quiet 1-catch game in Oakland. What was the problem? Did the Raiders pay more attention to Maclin? Did they shut him down? Was he a different receiver than from the week before?

"I think I was the same receiver," he said. "I just didn't get the opportunities like I did the week before."

Good answer. Maclin is a cool cat, a big-time talent and a player Donovan McNabb will look to on Monday night against the Redskins. Actually, Jackson needs to be a bigger part of things from this perspective. The Eagles need to get the football in his hands more, get him his dozen touches each game and watch the magic he creates.

Even if Curtis were healthy, there is a good chance that Maclin would be pressing for playing time. He is too talented to keep on the bench, and the Eagles were accelerating his learning curve long ago.

Clearly, though, the wide receiver corps has thinned since September. Hank Baskett was released. Brandon Gibson was traded. Curtis is hobbled by the injury. There are four on the roster now, and all of them are needed. Reggie Brown, in NFL purgatory for weeks to begin the season, is now part of the rotation and he could see some significant time on Sunday.

The Eagles need Brown, just as they need Jason Avant and Maclin and Jackson. This is a pass-first offense, and the Eagles have the playmakers to make it go. How they organize the playmakers is the toughest part of the game plan.

Through the first five games, there weren't many problems. The offense went fine. The passing game clicked. The running game had its hiccups, still does, but the Eagles had no problems spreading the football around and keeping everyone with a hand in the action.

In Oakland, the Eagles averaged only 4.3 yards per play and never established any kind of identity. Michael Vick was in for two snaps, was not a factor at all and raised more questions about how he could best be used.

There are no promises made to Vick. The Eagles have packages in each game for him, but they are wise not to force the issue. The time has to be right to use Vick correctly. He is clearly rusty, and to have him pop off the sidelines for a snap or two at a time and show blinding speed and great timing is asking a lot. Vick's situation is a work in progress. The Eagles have other weapons to use, so they don't necessarily need to wedge Vick into the scheme.

Oh, he's going to see the field on Monday night. Just how much, well, we'll see how the flow of the game goes. Washington has a very, very good defense. They're going to attack the line of scrimmage and mix up their coverages against the passing game. Albert Haynesworth changes games, as the Eagles are well aware.

The priority is getting Jackson and Maclin and Celek into the flow, not Vick. Working in the running game is high on the need list, not making sure that Vick gets his touches. Vick is completely understanding of the situation. There is no riff in the locker room regarding his use. The Eagles are looking to get back on track and open the NFC East season the right way, nothing more.

The pieces are here. The young talent is blossoming. Even with Curtis out for the foreseeable future, the Eagles have good hands in the passing game. They have the backs to make it go on the ground. It all has to come together, yes, and maybe the debut of Todd Herremans at left guard and Nick Cole at right guard will improve the play up front.

Monday night is big, big, big. A young offense needs to take a step forward right now to get the Eagles back in the win column in the first of three straight division games.

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