Philadelphia Eagles training camp 2014 is fast approaching. Coaches and players report as soon as Friday, July 25th. The entire Eagles training camp schedule, including information on practices open to the public, can be found by clicking here.
As we count down the days together, Bleeding Green Nation will be previewing every position on the Eagles roster. Today we look at the wide receiver position. [QB] [RB]
Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, Brad Smith, Jeff Maehl, Arrelious Benn, Damaris Johnson, B.J. Cunningham, Ifeanyi Momah, Will Murphy, Quron Pratt, Kadron Boone
Jeremy Maclin is returning from an ACL injury that caused him to miss the entire 2013 season. With DeSean Jackson gone, Maclin figures to step up as the team's feature receiver. If you believe head coach Chip Kelly can get a career year out of Maclin like he did with Jackson, there's certainly reason to be optimistic. It's also a big year for Maclin and the team because he's only playing on a one-year contract. There's been brief mention of an in-season contract extension but that remains to be seen. Quarterback Nick Foles and Maclin seemed to have a good chemistry at the end of the 2012 season, when Foles was still just a rookie. It'll be interesting to see if Maclin's big potential translates to big production.
Riley Cooper is returning from a strange season. The insensitive racial remarks set a bad tone for the rest of the year. It was looking possible the Eagles might just cut him. But that didn't happen and Cooper went on to have a career year. He wasn't very productive when Michael Vick was quarterbacking but he seemed to find a special connection with Foles. The question now is if Cooper can find consistency in his starting role.
Rookie wide out Jordan Matthews, who is seemingly destined for the Pro Football Hall of Fame given the hype surrounding him, is the prototypical Chip Kelly wide receiver. Big, strong, fast. He's also extremely hard-working and known for his good character off the field. Matthews can be used all over the field but it seems he'll get a fair share of work in the slot position. Matthews, who will be replacing a very unproductive Jason Avant, gives the Eagles a legitimate intermediate target. He might even be a viable Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate. But can he live up to the hype?
Josh Huff is the other Eagles rookie receiver selected in the 2014 NFL Draft. Huff and Kelly obviously worked together at Oregon. I'm not so sure Huff will make a major contribution in year one. He has the potential to play but he'll have to earn his time. He spent a lot of time working with the third team during the team's spring practices before slowly moving up to the second unit. If the Eagles continue to use 11 personnel so often there's really only room for three main receivers, so Huff might find himself spending most of his time on the special teams unit. A lesser offensive role is certainly possible.
Brad Smith is probably one of the best two special teams players on the roster. Not only can he cover kicks and punts but he can return kickoffs as well. He's a veteran receiver that took snaps with the first team offense during spring practices. Smith is far from a star player but he's a very solid depth contributor. The Eagles seem to like him a lot. It's worth noting that Eagles wide receiver coach Bob Bicknell was also the wide receiver coach in Buffalo when the Bills signed Smith a few years back.
Jeff Maehl, whom the Eagles traded for last summer, mostly contributed on special teams last year. Maehl could stick around in the same role this season.
Arrelious Benn is finally healthy after suffering an injury in training camp last year. Benn looked good in the spring practices with no sign of injury. He needs to prove he can continue to stay healthy. He also needs to standout on special teams.
Damaris Johnson failed to impress as a returner and was relegated to the bench for most of the 2013 season. He impressed during training camp last year but it never amounted to anything. Johnson could finally be on his way out.
B.J. Cunningham is a deep sleeper candidate. He probably doesn't have much of a chance to make the roster but he could earn a practice squad spot.
Ifeanyi Momah looks a lot better than he did at this time last year. He said he's been working on playing more to his large size. Momah is still a work in progress but he could also be practice squad material
Will Murphy, a former Oregon Duck, spent time on the team's practice squad in 2013. He's a valuable practice player to have because he knows what's expected of him.
Undrafted rookie free agent Quron Pratt stood out during spring practices because he's wearing DeSean Jackson's old No. 10 jersey. Pratt is a long shot.
Fellow undrafted rookie free agent long shot Kadron Boone was invisible to me during spring practices. Some have suggested he might be the Eagles top UDFA signing.
How will it play out?
he locks are Maclin, Cooper, Mattthews, and Huff. Smith is arguably a lock as well. If the Eagles only keep five receivers, it will probably be those players. If they keep a sixth, the final spot comes down to Arrelious Benn or Jeff Maehl. Special teams contribution will be a major factor in determining which depth receivers stick around.
The Eagles WR corps doesn't look spectacular on paper but let's not forget to adjust for the Chip Kelly effect. It wouldn't surprise me to get the best out of these players.
Who could be a surprise cut?
I don't see any major surprise cuts happening. Maehl making the team over a healthy Benn might surprise some. Smith would be a fairly shocking cut to me.