Saturday, July 27, 2013

Jeremy Maclin's End

Not Any More
Today at Eagles' training camp, WR1A Jeremy Maclin went down in pain, and stayed down, only to leave via the cart. The prognosis is a torn ACL, which ends his season and, most likely, his career in Philadelphia. Maclin is a free agent after this season, Kelly has no skin invested in this game, and there's no reason to think that we'll ever see him in the colors again.

Football is like that. And here's the nasty part: after 2012, that's fine by me.

Maclin might have been the most frustrating player on the roster last year on a 4-12 team, and dear Lord, is that saying something. Perpetually injured, pouting or unproductive, he seemed to excel at getting numbers in garbage time (69 catches, 857 yards, 7 TDs, um, whoopie), putting the ball on the ground in critical situations, and regressing in the third season where the team really needed him to step up and be a true threat. Despite getting most of the short work (DeSean Jackson on the other side gets the long, with cause), his catch rate plummeted, and 12.4 yards per reception isn't impressing anyone. But like everyone else that is still on the roster after last year's train wreck, the fan base was more than ready to forgive and forget in Kelly Year Zero.

Now, the team is left with the guys who weren't good enough to put Maclin to the bench -- Riley Cooper and Jason Avant, which is to say, two lesser possession receivers. Cooper has his moments in the red zone, and Avant can move the chains. The former has more height and YAC, the latter, more toughness and blocking ability, but if either guy is playing 1,000 snaps for you, you probably aren't going to the playoffs. (Which the 2013 Eagles were not going to do, even if Maclin had the best season of his career. But I digress.)

But ah, there's the rub.

No one really knows if WR2 for the Eagles is going to play the vast majority of snaps. Such is the mystique involving Chip Kelly -- and his instant collection of skilled pass-catching tight ends -- that if he send out three TEs (incumbent Brent Celek, Swiss Army weapon James Casey and rookie Zach Ertz) and just tries to go Thug Life on small corners, no one would bat an eye. By the way, as fun as that sounds, none of those guys has the kind of dependable hands that you need to make it a totally winnable strategy, and it's hard to see how they get enough YAC to be explosive, but maybe you avoid that problem by just snapping the ball every ten seconds.

How about the other WRs on the roster? There are some intriguing options, but we really don't know enough about any of them to think that, say, they were going to take away snaps from a healthy Maclin. Arrelious Benn, imported from Tampa for next to nothing, has the size, but hasn't produced in the pros on much beyond screen plays. Damaris Johnson had moments last year and a college pedigree of big plays, but looked to be more Jackson-like in his skills. Ifeanyi Momah has incredible size and speed, but might not be a football player, and even if he is, probably will need many years of training before he's a positive. Greg Salas is an NFL nomad in just his third year. Russell Shepard is more of a gadget play, and seemed to shrink over the years at LSU. Camp bodies named Will Murphy, Dave Ball and BJ Cunningham... well, it would be nice to think the new regime can find gold in chaff, but not very realistic.

One of these guys will have a job now that Maclin isn't taking a spot. And by the way, the sooner that is put in stone, the better. If you see the team reach for some free agent talent to fill Maclin's spot -- Brandon Lloyd is probably the biggest name out there -- feel free to put that down as a severe red flag that there  is no actual plan in place to rebuild the franchise, and that we're back in the bad old days of Andy Reid signing guys off the street to start on the offensive line. If Maclin had been cut this year in favor of any of the names listed above, and the team wanted to move on from a potential locker room lawyer, that would have been fine, too.

But in the here and now, there's this: Maclin becomes yet another first round pick in the Reid Era to underperform, disappoint, and very soon, disappear. The next three WRs taken after his selection, as the 19th pick, in 2009: Percy Harvin, Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt.

Oh, and if you want to move beyond WR to Best Available Player... LB Clay Matthews -- you know, the good Matthews -- six picks later, to the Packers.

Can you see why I'm not exactly broken up by news of the injury?

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