Training camp has the tendency to make legends out of some players.
Na Brown and Billy McMullin once turned heads at Lehigh. Hank Baskett was a borderline Pro-Bowler a few preseasons ago. And in 2010, it was Riley Cooper who had fans excited about what could be.
Cooper looked like the best wide receiver on the team for those 3 short weeks at Lehigh, catching everything thrown his way during his first training camp. His height (6'3), hands, and decent speed looked like they could really add a dimension to this Eagles offense they have not had in some time- a tall, legit red zone threat at wide receiver.
But like many training camp legends, things have not really paned out that way.
Cooper has not been a bust by any means. He has been a strong special teams player, and has stepped up when the team needed him. From Week 11 to Week 13 last year, Cooper hauled in 13 catches for 240 yards and 1 touchdown. The problem is that before those monster few weeks, he had zero catches and was a complete non-factor in the offense.
While it is true that their are plenty of weapons on the Eagles offense, and that Cooper is far down on that list, the fact is that he can have a big role on this team. His height sets him apart from the rest of the Eagles weapons, as he could be a real problem for opposing defensive backs in the red zone. Which is why it is disappointing that he only has 3 catches in the red zone during his 2 years here with the Eagles. With his hands and size, he should have way more than that. Cooper has yet to show he is capable of being a consistent red zone threat, which is why this year is a big year for him.
Unlike past years when Cooper really was the teams only option to keep as a tall receiver, the Eagles spent a 6th round draft pick on Marvin McNutt in this years draft. A 6'3 receiver from Iowa, McNutt is coming into camp looking to take Cooper's job, and he has the skills to do it. McNutt has a great set of hands, is physical, but also showed at Iowa that he is capable of coming down with the ball in the red zone.
The battle between Cooper and McNutt should be a good one. If McNutt shows enough potential in camp, the Eagles could decide to move on from Cooper and see if McNutt can seize the opportunity to be a red zone target.
Which means Cooper better have another camp like 2010 this year if he plans on spending another year with the Eagles.
Follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks