It hasn't been like this around the Eagles over the years. Have the Eagles, in fact, ever had a wide receiver situation with this much promise? They've been good in the past, great at some levels, but you would be hard-pressed to find a rotation through training camp and the preseason that rolls out so much talent, so much youth, and so much variety.
The tough part in this equation is figuring out how it is going to end. When the 53-man roster is unveiled on Saturday afternoon/early evening, there will be five or six receivers counted. Currently, the team has eight in line for Thursday's preseason game against the Jets. Who stays? Who goes? Here is a look at the receivers and a commentary on what they have shown the coaching staff since May ...
He is clearly the go-to receiver in the offense and, boy, has Jackson looked great all spring and summer. He is so fast in and out of his routes, has shown amazing body control and concentration and is as fearless as ever. Jackson is primed to have a great season. It's going to be fun watching cornerbacks play against him. Do they try to jam him at the line of scrimmage? Good luck, because Jackson has worked so hard on his release. Play off Jackson? Sure, he'll catch 80 passes running underneath routes and piling up yards after the catch.
Jackson has come such a long way in a year's time. He works as hard as anybody on the team and truly loves the game. Combine all of that with a great deal of talent and the Eagles have something special.
There is no internal concern over the current knee injury Curtis is nursing, so expect him in the starting lineup against the Panthers on September 13. Curtis has recovered from the sports hernia surgery that limited him a year ago and the Eagles expect big things again from him running outside routes and finding seams in the intermediate-route game. Strong hands, good speed and excellent route-running skills make Curtis a prime target for quarterback Donovan McNabb.
Will Curtis catch 77 passes as he did two seasons ago? It's hard to think that the Eagles will throw that much to any of the receivers, and if they do, Jackson would be the logical choice. No matter the numbers, Curtis has a big role in the offense and he has to go out and stay healthy and produce. There are going to be plenty of one-on-one opportunities for Curtis in the offense.
One of the most unheralded receivers in the NFC is starting to gain some recognition as a premier slot pass catcher. Avant does it all in traffic and is such a key piece in the offense. It requires strength, fearlessness, precision and great, great hands and concentration. The Eagles look to Avant all game during third downs, and Avant delivers.
Can Avant play outside? Yeah, but he is so much more skilled inside where sharp routes and the above attributes are vital.
No doubt Maclin has moved up the depth chart. He hasn't made up for the week-plus that he missed to begin training camp; coaches always say there is no way to make up that missed time. But Maclin has spent every day after practice working with receivers coach David Culley on his game and Maclin has been productive and is getting to the right spots. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg called Maclin a "natural" football player, and that is coachspeak for a supremely talented player for whom the game comes quickly.
Maclin adjusts to the game. He picks up the speed of things fast. He has come a long, long way in a short period of time, and it is exciting to think where he could be if he continues to take steps forward. Maclin is going to play this season. That much is obvious. He is fast, has good hands and is explosive. Maclin needs to acclimate himself to the physical play in the NFL, but that will come in time. He is a standout talent who is soon going to be right there with Jackson.
We know how valuable Baskett is to the offense and to the team. He is a big body with soft hands and he is a threat anywhere on the field. Baskett blocks extremely well and is one of the team's best players on special teams. He has a strong role on this team.
Baskett signed a one-year tender in the spring and clearly wants more involvement in the offense, but that's going to be difficult to come by. So Baskett will continue to be a professional and will give everything he has to help this team win.
Brown is one of the major questions as the team considers its roster options this week. Brown has had a good preseason and was outstanding last week in the win over Jacksonville. He can be a starter in this league because he runs well, has size, runs good routes and is good with the ball in his hands. Brown is also an underrated blocker and more of a big-play maker than people think.
At the same time, Brown is locked in a roster battle. Rookie Brandon Gibson has come on strong. Brown is working hard, battling and making the most of his opportunities. He is likely to play quite a bit against the Jets and you can expect Brown to put up some numbers.
Will Brown make it? Maybe, sure. He could start here if the Eagles needed him and he would put up good numbers. But you wonder as the depth chart is rolled out where Brown fits.
The sixth-round draft pick has had a superb summer. Gibson runs better than most sixth-rounders do, and he has caught just about everything thrown his way since the spring. Gibson needs to add strength, as all rookies do, but he has excellent body control and concentration. Gibson is a good, good football player.
What is his upside? Can he mature into a top-shelf receiver? Is it in him to be a starter some day? Those are some of the questions the Eagles have to answer as they consider their 53-man roster. Thursday is an important game for Gibson. Maybe he will get a large handful of looks and will have another chance to produce and make the coaches' roster decisions impossibly difficult.
He continues to hang in there. Amendola has been a strong player here since Day 1, enduring the extremely physical nature of the tempo. He has made some big plays in the preseason and is looking for more. Of the receivers on the roster now, Amendola is probably the longest of the long shots, and he knows it. But with a big punt return here and a catch and run there, Amendola will open eyes everywhere.
Amendola rounds out a really good, deep and promising group. When Saturday rolls around and Andy Reid and Co. think about how many receivers they are going to keep, some tough, touch decisions will have to be made. That's a good thing. This receivers corps, in fact, could be a great thing when it is all said and done and the passing game soars in the regular season.