Checking Up on the WRs

Posted: June 18th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 36 Comments »

There has been a lot of WR talk in recent days. This got started when Eagles assistants met with the media and that meant they could finally talk to WR coach Bob Bicknell. The hot topic wasn’t Josh Huff, the progress or Ifeanyi Momah or Jeff Maehl’s offseason training regimen. Everyone wanted to talk about DeSean.

Bicknell went all PC on ‘em.

“I feel like I had a great relationship with DeSean,” Bicknell said. “I really enjoyed being around him. I feel like we went through a really good year together. We moved on, and I don’t really think that much about it. But when it comes down to it, the kid did everything I asked him to do. He wasn’t late. He wasn’t disrespectful. He did the things we wanted him to do. We decided to move on, and that’s that.”

There is no doubt that things got contentious between Bicknell and DeSean at times. We all saw the sideline spat in the Vikings game. That said, football is an emotional game. Players yell at each other from time to time. DeSean has had shouting matches with players. Some of this stuff is forgotten by the time everyone is in the locker room. Other times, feelings linger.

I have no idea if Bicknell genuinely liked DeSean or just said that. I don’t know if DeSean was a Bicknell fan. We can only speculate and since DeSean is now gone, that would pretty much be a waste of time.

Bicknell now has a group of WRs with no divas among them. Jeremy Maclin is a former college star and successful pro receiver, but he’s a very high character guy from everything I’ve heard over the years. More than personality, the Eagles want bigger, more physical receivers.

“We made a decision to move on, and really from that point on, you say how are we going in the future?” Bicknell said. “You’re not sure what players you’re going to get and what you’re going to do, but for us, we’re a team that likes having bigger receivers. …We’re big in the run game with blocking, those kind of things. It was a decision to move on, and we moved with guys we were able to get.”

This is where Bicknell could have a challenge with Maclin. 2012 wasn’t a good year for Maclin as a blocker or RAC guy. He wasn’t Todd Pinkston by any stretch, but Mac was way too finesse. That won’t cut it in Chip Kelly’s system. I think we’ll see a very different version of Mac this year. Kelly won’t put up with non-blockers. If Mac wants to stay on the field, he’s going to have to start playing up to his size and doing the dirty work. My guess is that Kelly and Bicknell bring out the best in Maclin.

* * * * *

Paul Domowitch wrote about the WR corps and the changes taking place.

There currently are 13 wide receivers on the Eagles’ roster. Twelve are at least 5-11, including seven who are 6-2 or taller. Ten of the 13 weigh 200-plus pounds.

As Kelly is fond of saying, big people beat up little people.

Everybody, including the Eagles, is following the Seattle Seahawks’ lead and getting big, physical corners who can play press coverage and jam receivers at the line.

Offenses are responding by stocking up on big, physical wideouts who can get off that press coverage.

“If you’re a receiver, you’ve got to be able to deal with the bump-and-run and you’ve got to be able to catch the football,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said yesterday as the Eagles made their assistant coaches available to the media for the first time since last season. “Sometimes, it helps being a bigger receiver to fight through the physical nature of the bump-and-run.”

Kelly has repeatedly mentioned how much man-to-man coverage the Eagles saw last season. While they finished second in the league in total offense and ninth in scoring, and while Jackson managed to elude press coverage enough to catch a career-high 82 passes for a career-high 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns, he failed to gain more than 60 receiving yards in five of the Eagles’ last six games, and was effectively silenced in the playoffs by the Saints’ bigger, stronger corner, Keenan Lewis, who held Jackson without a catch for nearly three quarters before leaving the game with a concussion. Jackson finished with three catches for 53 yards.

“We saw more of that [press coverage] than other people,” Kelly said in March. “Having guys who can get open against man coverage is a key deal. That’s the one thing we know as a group going in. One-on-one coverage is a big deal for us. It’s a big deal in this league.”

It really is going to be interesting to see how this group does this year. The Eagles lost their most dynamic receiver. There is no doubt that the receiving corps is going to be different. Is it possible they will be better?

Before you accuse me of being an all-time idiot, you have to consider the importance of fit and overall performance. Blocking has to be factored in since Kelly preaches the importance of that. DeSean was an average blocker. He gave good effort last year, but he was still only 5-10, 175. There were times when bigger DBs got the best of him. Bigger WRs might sustain blocks better, which could lead to even more big plays in the run game.

Kelly has his big receivers. Let’s see how they do.

(And for those who point out the Eagles don’t have any truly big guys, please understand that 6-5, 230 WRs with even decent ability are incredibly hard to find. Guys that are 6-3, 215 and 6-3, 220 are big WRs.)

* * * * *

As far as Maclin’s comeback from his ACL injury…so far, so good.

I’ve done everything since April 21st, when we were able to get out here as a team,” Maclin said. “I’ve been getting better each and every day, and I’m really happy with my progress.”

And it’s not just Maclin talking. Quarterback Nick Foles said he thinks Maclin is “better” than before the injury, explaining that Maclin has more strength. Coach Chip Kelly has played Maclin without restrictions and has not seen any limitations.

“He’s been cleared to do everything and has not missed anything,” Kelly said.

And now for the big challenge.

“As far as all the routes, I’m doing them all,” Maclin said. “We’ve had plays where I’ve had to stretch out and dig a little bit, and I’ve made those plays. I think the next step is just getting tackled.”

Mac’s injury was non-contact, but there is still something about a guy coming off injury and having to deal with getting hit. How is he going to handle the first tackle? How is he going to handle the first time a DB attacks his legs? It just takes time to get used to that stuff.

_


  • Anders

    I know people are all ready to give the 5th WR spot to Brad Smith, but I really think Benn wins it if he is healthy. My guess is if Benn is fully healthy, he wins the 3rd WR spot.

    Also I find it very encouraging that Momah is developing. My only fear is that if he gets cut and we try to sneak him unto the PS, he will get snatched this time around.
    Last year there was no fear because he was just flat out bad, but I think a team like the Browns or Panthers are gonna take at least 2 of our WRs who do not make it.

    • RobNE

      can we keep Smith and Benn? I’ll let you cut Casey Matthews. I don’t follow all the details about how many you can keep at each poisition but I think both these guys can contribute.

      • Anders

        Right now I have it at

        3 specialists (duh)
        26 defenses split in:

        7 DL, 4 ILB, 5 OLB, 6 CB and 4 S

        and
        24 offense:
        3 QB, 4 RB, 5 WR, 4 TE and 8 OL

        So yes we could go 6 WR and 3 TE, the last offensive skill guy is essential between Burton, Momah, Smith and Johnson.

        • Ark87

          I think we keep 5 safeties, 5 CB’s, justified by the versatility our roster has there for special teams and some can cover the slot, unless the policy on Allen is if he doesn’t win a starting job we cut him, or reynolds doesn’t make the 53. Figuring, Jenkins, Allen, Wolff, Maragos, and Reynolds (who may end up on the practice squad). I figure at CB, we’re good with Williams, Fletcher, Boykin, then Carrol and Watkins filling in as back-ups, I’d like to have another, but do we have a 6th CB worthwhile right now?

          • RobNE

            Cut Burton (don’t know who that is), cut Momah (please, he’s not making the final roster), cut Johnson. Keep Smith. There, that wasn’t so tough.

          • Ben

            Burton has talent and if you are not aware of who he is, click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uynzy0-qRyw
            Momah has a chance if he clicks.
            He’s huge and just has to learn how to better utilize his speed.
            He came off a terrible injury and may be someone to watch if you ask me.
            I have to agree with you on Johnson but if he gets cut, I can assure you someone will sign him.
            He is a very talented player who never got a chance considering the depth on this team.
            Also Brad Smith is another great player.
            I think we have great depth at WR and if they can all stay healthy then were getting somewhere.

          • Dominik

            Johnson never had a chance? In what universe? We had 3 capable receivers last year before we signed Smith (and even after that, he had to learn the playbook). Losing anaps against Jeff Maehl doesn’t mean you didn’t get a chance.

            Maybe he pans out at another team, it happens, but Johnson (and Marsh, for that matter) are players I would cut in a heartbeat without any bad feelings. They had their chances and never delivered.

            And btw, Johnson was our RS and an awful one.

          • Anders

            I do not think Reynolds make it. Me going 6 CBs is mainly based on Curtis Marsh doing very well so far in OTAs (he is constantly mentioned as a guy breaking up a pass or getting an int)

          • Ark87

            I’ve heard that about Marsh, people talk about rookie WR’s not typically making an impact, but CB’s is even worse it seems. Looking at a guy whp was as raw as Marsh, I suppose it’s possible it’s finally starting to click. He’s got good physical tools to work with.

          • Anders

            yea, he was super raw when we drafted him and for the first few years he had terrible coaching.
            I do not understand why people do not want Marsh to finally break trough, because he has the skills to be a great CB.

          • GEAGLE

            Think anyone would be happy to be wrong about him…haven’t given anyone any reason for justifiable faith and the odds are stacked against him making this roster…if he makes it, it would be because he looks great so I’m sure any fan would welcome seeing that type of growth

          • UWotM8

            Yup. Hopefully these are signs that Marsh has finally taken that next step to finally being at least a competent CB because he’s a perfect fit with his athleticism and size for Billy Davis’ defense.

          • GEAGLE

            Really? Honestly haven’t seen that written at all

          • Ark87

            Marsh intercepted Foles and it was def con Foles regression on a lot of boards, “How did he get picked by a scrub like Marsh?!?!?! OMGGGGGG!!!” etc etc..But he’s been making a bit of noise. I do think he and Reynolds may be fighting for the same roster spot.

          • Ben

            It’s true. I have read about Marsh on a couple sites. Glad to see the light coming on for him.
            Better late than never.

    • GEAGLE

      I think if Benn STAYS healthy because my understanding is he has looked awesome, think it’s more likely that we keep a 6th, then cutting Brad

    • Anthony Hart

      I don’t understand the Benn hype. He hasn’t done anything since he got to the NFL.

      • Cafone

        Before his injury, he put up much better numbers than Riley Cooper ever did, and that was with Josh Freeman throwing the ball.

        • Insomniac

          The guy barely has more career yards than Cooper did in 2013…

          • D3FB

            I think what he is saying is from 2010- 2012:
            Benn: 59 rec, 862 yards, 5 TDs
            (depsite falling out of favor with Schiano and going 4/26/0 in 2012).

            Cooper: 46rec, 679 yards, 5TDs

      • Ben

        I have to agree, Benn has attributes you just don’t find everyday. You can’t teach size and speed. Now that he finally will have a highly skilled QB getting him the rock, I am curious to how good he can become.

  • SteveH

    Good job by Bicknell with the PR job. The best spin is when you can’t tell if its spin or not.

  • RobNE

    why wasn’t the Army Ranger kept as a TE, which I think is the position he played. I assume the coached believe he just doesn’t have the hands (or speed)?

    • Anders

      He worked out as a TE at the regional combine, but I think the Eagles saw something that made them switch him to DE.

      • GEAGLE

        He allegedly put on 30lbs already and is still looking athletic…one of the things I’m looking forward to most about camp is seeing how that dude moves around at 6-9 300lbs

        • Ben

          It would be awesome if he was able to give us flashes of Reggie.
          I just want him to toss around linemen like Reggie used to do.
          That was a sight to behold.
          He certainly has the size but does he have the strength and ability is the question.

    • D3FB

      He actually never played TE. His Freshman year, he was a 4th string DL. Switched to OT his sophomore year. Became the starter his junior year. New coaching staff moved him out to WR his senior year.

  • Cafone

    There seems to be a bit of a logjam at the receiver position. How long before Kempski writes a “Maclin may be the odd man out” article?

  • lewis don

    “It really is going to be interesting to see how this group does this
    year. The Eagles lost their most dynamic receiver. There is no doubt
    that the receiving corps is going to be different. Is it possible they
    will be better?”

    This receiving corps is a interesting bunch. I think we have 6 receivers who could all be dangerous this year.

    It reminds me of the Seahawks WR core last year. Alot of Media folk wrote them off. But I saw G. Tate making great sideline catches, back up recievers making plays. Doug Baldwin with his great hands. I think the word “FIT” comes to mind.

    This whole offseason has made sense to me so far. Thats what propels my interest. I don’t see why this team can’t be great, not that they will, or that there aren’t holes. Or potential holes. But It seems the pieces are coming together. It seems they are on the cusp of something great. When I go down the roster, I get this giddy feeling. A feeling I didnt even have when Namdi, Cromartie, and Asante were all on the same team.

    I watch and rewatch eagles games from last year at this point. What I saw was several players at the WR position I liked. B.Smith was explosive and I thought to myself that given the chance this year, he will carve out a role.

    This is my list of who will make it at the WR position this offseason:

    – J.Maclin
    – J. Matthews
    – J. Huff
    – B. Smith
    – A. Benn
    – R. Cooper

    The Eagles kept 6 Last year, and I don’t think they need to look further than this group of 6.

    I also am rooting for

    – J. Maehl
    – I. Momah

    But Idunno if they can make it.

    J. Maehl made the team last year, but Benn was out, Maclin was injured, and so we were short at the WR position.

    Maehl is a clutch player. He reminds me of Todd Pinkston in stature, but this guys gives one heck of an effort.

    Anyways…

    • bsuperfi

      I think fit is exactly right, and in this case it’s important to look at the fit of the wr corps as a whole. At this point, we seem to have a lot of (potentially) good but not great Wrs. Maclin could bust out but I wouldn’t count on it. Matthews could be great in a year or two. But at this point the corps on the whole looks good.

      It makes sense because it’s all about throwing to the open man and having enough players to keep up with the offensive speed. And of course, we need to factor in the right ends and rbs, including the quasi rb that is sproles. As a whole, there’s a lot of firepower.

      • lewis don

        “As a whole, there’s a lot of firepower.”

        Yes! I believe it.

        But Maclin had a couple of seasons where he almost went for 1,000 yards.

        Go back and watch the 2010 season. He played really well, and Vick was throwing all over the place.

        Something he alluded to in a recent interview.

        I think Maclin will surprise you. I think we forget that he was a top tier secondary receiver and given the chance to be in the spotlight. I believe he will indeed break out.

        BELIEVE! lol. or not..

  • austinfan

    There’s a name for 6’5 230 lb WRs “H-back.”

    There’s a few big WRs in the NFL, heck Cooper is close to 230 lbs these days, but most big WRs lack the burst off the LOS to get separation from CBs, which is why they either get cut or learn to block and move to TE.

    One reason I’m sure they’re still intrigued with Momah is that he tests like a real WR, big WRs rarely run 4.08 SS or 6.75 cone drills, heck, those are good numbers for 6’0 200 lb WRs, not guys who measure 6’7 239 lbs.

  • Ben

    Good read Tommy, I was watching Jeremy Maclins recent press conference at PE.COM.
    I noticed that Jeremy has got some huge guns for arms nowadays.
    I never noticed them before but I think he will block well since Chip emphasizes the importance of blocking.
    If he is the team player that we all believe him to be then I think that he uses his ability more efficiently.
    Maybe Andy never really stressed the importance as much as we all know Chip does.
    That might be one of the reasons why he gets ribbed for being a poor blocker.

    • Ark87

      It used to be a point of emphasis on Reid’s teams, even early in Mac’s tenure, we hadn’t completely sold out to the big play concepts, and down field blocking was extremely important as we had a reputation for being one of the best screen teams in the game. Mac initially was a passable blocker. Maybe Andy let up on that emphasis. I do know that in 2011 he emerged from that health scare small and a bit diminished. Wasn’t strong, wasn’t physical. 2012 he injured an continually aggravated a soft tissue injury to the core. 2012 was definitely the banner year for the self-tacklin’ Jeremy Maclin reputation (and not blocking). I’m not sure if the coaches advised him basically just sticking to running routes making catches and preserving his health, but at the very least they were complicit in it.

      I don’t recall this being an issue in 2009 or 2010, so I have a lot of confidence in Mac. Chip seems to be genuinely excited to finally have Mac at his disposal and I always find Chip’s excitement infectious. As for Mac, yeah it looks like he picked up competitive arm wrestling out of boredom during rehab.

      • Neil

        This. It was just 2012 when Maclin’s blocking was unacceptable. He was never particularly physical, but he did a decent job.

        Chip Kelly has a saying, “if you accept it, expect it.” There was a whole lot of BS Reid accepted from everyone that final year like the Charmin Brigade.

  • xmbk

    The only way I would call you an “all-time idiot” (which I would never do, even when you dissed Trent Murphy) would be because you even question whether it’s possible that the WR corps might be better this year. There are no guarantees, but I’m pretty sure the coaches are optimistic that the unit will be improved. And those guys get paid more than you or me to figure that stuff out. Salary clearly played a big part in The Release, but I can definitely see where the attack might be improved with the new players. I realize that most fans can only see player talent and tend to underappreciate system talent. But the best franchises understand what makes for a consistent winner. The next few seasons should be a good time for Eagles fans, and it may very well start this year as the pieces fall into place.