When the Philadelphia Eagles released DeSean Jackson earlier this offseason, they instantly lost not only their best deep threat on the team, but one of the best deep threats in the entire NFL. In 2013 Jackson recorded a total of 16 receptions (1st) of 20+ yards for a total of 553 yards (3rd) and 8 touchdowns (T-1st).
Moving forward, returning Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin will be counted on to replace some of that deep threat production. Maclin (4.45 40 yard dash) doesn't have the speed that Jackson does (4.35), but so far he has been a respectable deep threat in his career. Take a look at these numbers from ESPN (In$ider).
Jackson's main role in the Eagles' offense was to be the vertical threat. According to ESPN Stats & Information, his 905 receiving yards on vertical passes (defined as aerials thrown 11 or more yards downfield) accounted for 38 percent of Philadelphia's production in that area last season.
Maclin missed the entire 2013 campaign due to an ACL tear in his right knee, but in 2012 he outpaced Jackson in terms of vertical receptions (47 for Maclin, 42 for Jackson), vertical yards (540 for Maclin, 449 for Jackson) and vertical touchdowns (five for Maclin, two for Jackson). To be fair, Maclin played in 15 games that year and Jackson played in only 11, but even if those numbers are tabulated on a per-game basis, Maclin was nearly as productive as Jackson. Given that his recovery is going quite well (Maclin recently said he feels faster in some ways), Maclin should be on pace to mimic Jackson's role as a downfield target in 2014.
In interest of expanding this data I took a look at the deep passing numbers made available at Pro Football Focus. Here's how Maclin has fared from deep to this point in his career.
|Maclin||Catches of 20+||Yards||Touchdowns||Drops|
|Total from 09-12||33||1107||11||4|
Now let's compare Maclin's deep numbers from 09-12 to Jackson's.
|DeSean||Catches of 20+||Yards||Touchdowns||Drops|
|Total from 09-12||40||1694||13||7|
Clearly Jackson has the edge in yards, but the reception and touchdown totals aren't all that different.
The thing that stands out the most to me is the leap between Jackson's lackluster 2012 deep performance compared to his 2013 renaissance. The Eagles 2013 offense under Chip Kelly was very explosive; collectively it set an NFL record for the most yards or 20+ plays in a single season with 99. Maclin may never be the deep threat Jackson is, but if Kelly's offense benefits Maclin like it did Jackson, it's safe to say Maclin will be a much more dangerous vertical threat in 2014.