This is the next installment in our series of 12 positions in 12 days previewing the upcoming Eagles training camp. Rookie and selected vets report to Lehigh July 26th and each day leading up to that date we will bring you a preview of a different position battle.
It's everyones' favorite position! The position the entire Eagles fanbase has obsessed over for the past decade. "If Andy Reid insists on passing all the time why doesn't he go get good WRs?!?"
Well, has he? We take on the WR position after the jump.
The same pair who ended last year as the starters will likely open this year in the same position, Desean Jackson & Kevin Curtis. Thanks to injuries to 2008 starters Curtis and Reggie Brown, Desean Jackson had an opportunity to play early as a rookie and took full advantage of it posting the best year from an Eagles rookie WR in team history. Jackson caught 62 passes for over 900 yards and a 2 TDs. He also averaged nearly 15 yards per catch and did all this while also working as the teams' primary punt return man. With another year in the offense and simply another year as a pro... Jackson could very well establish himself as the best WR in the NFC East.
Kevin Curtis started out last year on a sour note. Sports hernia surgery kept him out of the first six games of the season. Despite playing with pain when he did come back, he was relatively productive but never reached the form we saw in 2007 when he gained over 1,000 yards. Heading into 2009 healthy, there's good reason to believe Curtis should be a productive part of the offense once again.
Jeremy Maclin drafted #19 overall after the Eagles traded up to the spot to get him.
Brandon Gibson drafted in the 6th round.
Brandon Robinson & Marcus Thigpen were both signed as undrafted free agents.
Danny Amendola was signed as a free agent from the Dallas Cowboys.
What to watch for
There's eleven WRs on this roster competing for five or six spots. Last year the Eagles carried
five six at the position(I forgot Greg Lewis!). We can pick four guys that are basically guaranteed a spot. Desean Jackson, Kevin Curtis, Jeremy Maclin, & Jason Avant. I really think the development of Avant last year and the job he did on third downs has cemented his spot as an important role player in this offense.
That leaves seven players competing for no more than two spots. If we take the longshot players out of the equation(Robinson, Thigpen, McBride, Amendola) that leaves a serious three man battle for the final WR spots. The combatants are Brandon Gibson, who I only really put a notch above the UDFAs because he was a draft pick. Hank Baskett(a former Na Brown award winner), whose celebrity may be quickly outpacing his actual talent. And finally Reggie Brown, who up until an injury in training camp last year had been starting for this team since midway through his rookie year.
On talent alone, Reggie Brown should clearly win that battle... but the mere fact that Reggie Brown isn't a lock to make this team is a bit of a red flag for him. Would the Eagles be better served with Reggie as bench player for depth or should they be looking to get a draft pick for him from a team that might be in need of a veteran WR who, until last year, had actually put up decent numbers? A major factor in the battle for the final WR spots will be special teams play. Hank Baskett is particularly good special teams player, whereas Reggie Brown has barely ever played special teams.
While the development of Desean Jackson & Jeremy Maclin will no doubt be the biggest and most important story at the WR position in camp... I'm most curious to see what happens with Reggie Brown. If he doesn't show some serious fire, competitive spirit, and of course reliable hands at Lehigh this year the Eagles may very well end up moving on from a guy who, by the end of 06/07, was looking like a potential star. His fall form grace has been quick and it will be fascinating to see if he can resurrect himself.
All that said, I do want to stress that this camp is really about Desean Jackson & Jeremy Maclin. Those two are clearly the most important players to watch not only at the WR position, but maybe in the whole offense.
Previous position previews