NFL

Eagles receiving corps could soar even without Jackson

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Ben Fisher, TSN.ca
8/27/2014 3:00:17 PM
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This time last year there were doubts as to whether Chip Kelly's fast-paced offence would translate well into the NFL. Those no longer exist. The questions this year are mostly just how potent the Philadelphia Eagles' offence can become under Kelly, entering his second year as head coach.

The Eagles were the second ranked offence last season, and there's reason to believe they could challenge to be the best this year. A lot of the pieces are there, led by dual threat running back Lesean McCoy and talented, come-from-nowhere quarterback Nick Foles. The final part of the equation could bet the receivers.

With Desean Jackson now in Washington – and some arguing that move was addition by subtraction – the Eagles are left without a leader among their pass catchers, but a number of talented players who appear ready to increase their role and their impact on games for the Eagles.

Jeremy Maclin is on many a fantasy expert's breakout watch heading into the season. Despite hovering around the 1,000-yard mark in each of his four seasons, Maclin has yet to crack the mark. That figures to change if the 26-year-old can stay healthy a year after tearing his ACL and missing the whole season.

“I just know him from what I've seen of him (before the injury),” Eagles receivers coach Bob Bicknell told The Times of Trenton regarding Maclin. “And he looks the same. He's catching the ball, making plays. I don't think he's lost anything from the injury.”

With Maclin moving up a slot to take Jackson's No. 1 targets, Riley Cooper will slot into the No. 2 hole, previously held by Maclin when healthy.

Cooper had a terrible start to the 2013 season when a video emerged of him making racist comments. The soon-to-bet 27-year-old worked hard to re-earn the trust of his teammates and take advantage of his opportunities to produce a career-year. Like Maclin, Cooper has a shot at 1,000 yards in the Eagles' strong offence.

You can add McCoy and the team's two tight ends to the cast of players that should contribute to Foles' likely gaudy passing numbers. McCoy will continue to be used a ton in the Eagles' high octane offence, and could improve on his 539 receiving yards from a year ago. Philly's top two tight ends, Brent Celek and Zach Ertz, combined for 971 yards and 10 touchdowns. If one emerges and garners most of Foles' targets, they could join Maclin and Cooper as 1,000 yard threats.

Second-round pick Jordan Matthews is another solid addition to the plethora of options for Foles to look to as well.

“We have some options,” Bicknell told The Times of Trenton ahead of training camp. “Our room is a little different this year. There's been some change, but that makes it fun. It's challenging. I like our room.”

Until Maclin, or even Cooper proves they're a bona fide No. 1 in this league, Foles will be without the pure go-to receiver he had last year in Jackson. But the formidable depth of the Eagles' pass catchers this year will go a long way in helping Foles from seeing any dip in production from his Pro Bowl 2013.

Notes

While the offence will be great again this season, the defence needs some work. The Eagles are hoping the continuity gained from a second year under defensive coordinator Bill Davis will be enough to improve on their 29th overall ranking last season and 32nd against the pass.

If continuity isn't enough, the Eagles did add a number of defensive backs, including veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins, to help shore up the team's troubles against the pass.

The Eagles used two early picks to add to their deep receiving corps in Jordan Matthews (second round) and Joss Huff (third), but their first round pick was spent on defence, grabbing edge rusher Marcus Smith out of Louisville.

Jeremy Maclin (Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
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