Philadelphia Eagles training camp 2015 is fast approaching. Coaches and players report as soon as Saturday, August 1. The 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. We start off by taking a look at the wide receiver position.
Jordan Matthews, Riley Cooper, Josh Huff, Nelson Agholor, Miles Austin, Seyi Ajirotutu, Jeff Maehl, Quron Pratt, Rasheed Bailey, Devante Davis, John Harris
The Eagles' biggest loss this offseason was seeing Jeremy Maclin sign with the Kansas City Chiefs. Maclin had 85 receptions for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014. That's a lot of production to replace.
The good news is that the Eagles have some talented young players waiting in the wings (no pun intended) to step up. Jordan Matthews only recently 23 and he's coming off a bright rookie season. Matthews finished with 67 receptions for 872 yards and eight touchdowns in 2014. Most of Matthews' production came from the slot position. Matthews suggested he might play more at the outside receiver position this season, which might be true, but he still took a lot of reps on the inside during spring practice. For now, pencil him in as the team's starting slot receiver once again.
The much-maligned Riley Cooper returns to the Eagles in 2015 after arguably being the NFL's worst starting receiver last season. Most expected Cooper's production to regress in 2014 after a career 2013 performance, but I'm not sure if anyone expected him to be as bad as he really was. Perhaps the ankle injury he suffered last summer was partially to blame. In any event, Cooper needs to be better in order to deserve the kind of playing time he received last year. One thing that could work in Cooper's favor is his vaunted blocking skills. With the Eagles looking to get back to running the ball more often, Cooper could at least provide some value in that role.
Cooper's struggles last season should ideally cost him playing time this season. If that's the case, 23-year-old Josh Huff might be ready to step up and steal it for himself. Huff was a disaster at times as a rookie, but he also showed some flashes of talent in very limited playing time. Huff is apparently looking "shredded and a lot more explosive" heading into Year 2, which is good news if true. Huff is a fun player to watch after the catch due to his tough running style. He'll fight through contact and take it head on. He's just as ferocious when he blocks, which should also help him earn playing time.
If Huff fails to step up, the addition of rookie first round pick Nelson Agholor could be all that more important. Agholor really impressed in spring practices with his ability to snag the ball in the air. He moves really well in space, too. Agholor has the versatility to play on the inside or outside. He might not be a full-time starter right away but he should see his fair share of playing time.
Miles Austin is on the team. That's still weird, but it seems like the Eagles value his #veteranpresence. The 31-year-old turned in a decent season with the Browns last year, especially considering Cleveland's horrid quarterback situation. He had a respectable 47 receptions for 568 yards and two touchdowns. He was a surprisingly efficient target. Considering the Eagles gave Austin $1 million guaranteed, I guess they envision some kind of role where he rotates in on offense. It doesn't seem to make much sense to keep him strictly as a depth receiver since he hasn't played special teams in years, though he said he's wiling to do so.
Seyi Ajirotutu was a solid pickup by the Eagles this offseason. He's basically an upgraded version of Brad Smith, except with a cooler name. He even took Smith's old No. 16 jersey. Ajirotutu led the Chargers' special teams unit in tackles the past two seasons. He also looked pretty decent in spring practices this year. He should be a lock to make the roster as a depth player and special teams ace.
With the aforementioned six wide receivers looking like roster locks, the remaining six are on the outside looking in. Jeff Maehl is still around after making the roster the past two seasons. This summer could be his last with the team. Quron Pratt spent last season on the practice squad. Undrafted free agents Rasheed Bailey, Devante Davis, and John Harris could be competing for a spot (or two) on the practice squad this year. Bailey, an alumnus of Division III football Delaware Valley, arguably had the best spring of those players. He's not flashy but he could project as a productive possession guy in the future. G.J. Kinne made the transition from quarterback to wide receiver this offseason. He's on pace to be the best pass catcher in NFL history.
How will it play out?
Matthews, Huff, Agholor, Cooper, Austin, and Ajirotutu appear to be locks. That's easy to figure out. The hard part is figuring out how often they'll play. Matthews seems like a sure bet in the slot. After that, there are questions. Will Cooper's playing time be reduced? Will Huff's playing time increase? How big of a role will Agholor have? How does Austin fit in? Only time will tell.
When it comes to the undrafted guys, I'll pencil in Pratt and Bailey as the guys who make the practice squad. That could easily change depending on how the rookies perform this summer.
Kinne will also draw practice squad consideration due to his ability and willingness to line up at other offensive positions such as quarterback and running back.
Who could be a surprise cut?
If the Eagles were going to move on from Riley Cooper, they would have already made that decision by now. He's more expensive to cut than to keep so he probably isn't going anywhere. Miles Austin was guaranteed $1 million, but maybe the Eagles will be willing to eat that if one of the undrafted rookies really step ups and blows the coaches away.