The Eagles' wide receiver corps took a major blow on Friday when the team released star talent DeSean Jackson. Jackson's value cannot be easily replaced: the 82 receptions for 1332 yards (16.2 y/r), and 9 touchdowns produced last season won't just appear out of thin air. In 2013, Jackson accounted for over 32% of the team's passing yards and 28% of the touchdown receptions. As frequently noted, there was more to Jackson's value than simply just the stats. His presence alone stretched the field which forced opposing defenses to keep their safeties deep. The threat of the deep ball opened up underneath passing as well as the running game.
So with all of what gone, what do the Eagles have left? Well, the cupboard isn't exactly bare. The players that remain may not be as talented as Jackson, but they aren't anything to scoff at. Here's an updated look at the Eagles' receiving options.
Jeremy Maclin - 6-0, 198; Age: 25
Maclin missed the entire 2013 season with an ACL injury. He's expected to be ready for this season. It's a little concerning to be relying on a player coming off a serious injury, but there's no denying Maclin is a talented player if healthy. The Eagles were eager to re-sign him before he hit free agency. Many will point out that Maclin has never had a 1,000+ yard season (hooray for arbitrary numbers), but it's hard not to think that Maclin could really excel in Kelly's offense.
Riley Cooper - 6-3, 222; Age: 26
Cooper also re-signed with the Eagles this offseason. He experienced a career year in Kelly's offense; especially with Nick Foles at quarterback. Cooper racked up 47 receptions for 835 yards (17.8 Y/R) and 8 touchdowns. Many worry that Jackson's absence will make life tougher on Cooper. It's up to Cooper to prove 2013 wasn't just a one-year wonder kind of deal.
Arrelious Benn - 6-2, 220; Age: 25
The Eagles traded for Benn last season and then immediately gave him a contract extension. Benn tore his ACL in training camp and missed the entire season. Benn has solid size and good blocking skills, but he needs to prove he can stay healthy. BGN is following Benn through his rehab.
Brad Smith - 6-2, 213; Age:30
Smith was signed by the Eagles halfway through the 2013 season. He played really well on special teams coverage and also contributed in a very limited role on offense. Smith could figure to be the team's primary kick returner in 2013. Perhaps his role in the offense will grow with a full offseason to be worked into the system. It's also worth noting Smith took a small pay cut recently which could help his chances of staying on the roster. Smith also provides value as an emergency QB.
Jeff Maehl - 6-0, 184; Age: 25
The Eagles traded for Maehl late in training camp last season. He didn't contribute much on offense but he played on special teams.
Damaris Johnson - 5-8, 170; Age: 24
Johnson had an amazing training camp last year. Then the regular season started and he didn't really do much other than struggle as a returner. Is Johnson just another Na Brown or can he actually provide meaningful contribution on offense? I'm irrationally (?) optimistic.
B.J. Cunningham - 6-2, 215; Age: 24
Cunningham was a player that I was excited to watch in training camp. He showed some potential in his college football days at Michigan State University. Cunningham is a deep sleeper at the WR position. He has a long way to go to make the team but needless to say, I'm intrigued.
Will Muprhy - 6-2, 193; Age: 23
Murphy is a former Oregon Duck who spent last season on the practice squad. He's another body for the Eagles to have at WR in training camp.
Ifeanyi Momah - 6-7, 239; Age: 24
Momah!!! Everyone's favorite tall receiver is likely just a camp body, but he won't go down without a fight.
Don't just focus on the players on the Eagles' roster listed as wide receivers. There are other pass catchers on the team.
TE Brent Celek - 6-4, 255; Age: 29
Celek can contribute as both a blocker and receiver.
TE Zach Ertz - 6-5, 250; Age: 23
Ertz had a great rookie season as far as tight ends go. It'll be interesting to see if he can make a big leap in his second year. Ertz is 'officially' a tight end but watching him on the field or in practice at times makes you forget that he's not actually a wide receiver.
RB Darren Sproles - 5-6, 190; Age: 30
The Eagles acquired Sproles this offseason in a trade with the Saints. Sproles lined up in the slot 40% of the Saints' offensive snaps last season. Compare Sproles' 2013 numbers to former Eagles slot WR Jason Avant:
Sproles: 71 rec, 84.5% caught, 604 yards, 540 YAC, 7.6 YAC/rec, 0 drops, 0 fumbles
Avant: 38 rec, 53.5% caught, 447 yards, 69 YAC, 2.3 YAC/rec, 3 drops, 2 fumbles
There's no one player left on this roster that will replace Jackson. But together, the Eagles have a number of decent options for Foles to spread the ball around. If you're still worried that the Eagles need more, don't forget that this year's draft class is loaded at wide receiver. BGN will have more on potential WR draft options in the upcoming days. Perhaps the biggest factor here is that Chip Kelly is still the head coach. There's always the chance Kelly's system can make receivers better than they seem.