Fitting the Eagles Wide Receivers into the Offense

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper are back in the fold while Jason Avant is expected to be on his way out. And DeSean Jackson is still under contract. So how will everyone fit in?

The good news, for the Eagles at least, is that their in-house offseason priorities have been taken care; formerly pending free agents Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper have both been re-signed to new contracts. Meanwhile, DeSean Jackson, who is coming off a career year, is still under contract. So the question now is: how will these Eagles wide receivers fit into the offense? It's a question that there isn't a concrete answer to at this time. That answer will be revealed when the Eagles take the field this fall. But in the meantime, it's fair to wonder.

The key focus is on the slot receiver position. Jason Avant was heavily used in the slot last season, but that's really because he lacks the kind of speed to play on the outside. Not to mention it's where Avant has played his whole career. Avant is expected to be released at some point within the next two weeks. So who will man the slot with Avant gone? The excellent Sheil Kapadia of Birds 24/7 put together a good post detailing career slot numbers of the Eagles current receivers. The takeaway from his post is that the Eagles don't have a clearly defined slot man, and that the Eagles are likely to mix and match who plays in the slot. That includes tight end Zach Ertz, who showed potential as a pass catcher in his rookie year. Sheil's conclusion certainly seems logical.

Without a proven option, it remains to be seen how such a strategy would work. It's hard to imagine the Eagles offense could be worse off than what they got out of their slot receiver last year, however. Avant was very unproductive as a receiver. The versatile skill sets of Cooper, Maclin, and Jackson give Eagles head coach Chip Kelly more options to work with. Maclin said as much in a media session on Friday night. "The good thing about [Jackson, Cooper, and myself] is that everyone can play everywhere. No one is limited to one spot. Chip will make us successful."

Ultimately, the reminder of what Kelly did with the Eagles offense last year should act a comfort to ease concerns. There's little doubt Kelly will find way to create mismatches and get his receivers in positions where they can make plays. By adding another talented receiver on field and upgrading over Avant, the Eagles' offense has the potential to be even more dangerous in 2014.

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