Step away from the ledge. You’ll thank me later.
To be honest, I was a shocked by fan reaction — in two ways — after the Eagles released DeSean Jackson. First, there were a lot more people than I expected who seemed content with the move. Whether that was due to his increasing contract demands or his reported connection to gang activity, more people than I thought seemed at peace with the move.
There was, however, a small minority of fans who basically felt like the season was over and the Eagles had no shot moving forward. This puzzled me. I understand how unique of a talent Jackson is, but there are other players on this team — Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy specifically — whose departure would have a more significant impact.
There’s no question that the Eagles are a less talented team now then they were a week ago. But they aren’t as bad as many seem to think, either.
Bottom line: The Eagles will be fine in 2014 without DeSean Jackson.
Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin are the only two reliable wideouts currently on the roster. I understand Maclin’s injury history, but will give him the benefit of the doubt here. He’s been working hard at getting back on the field, and all indications are that he’ll be healthy for camp.
Knowing this, it’s clear that the Eagles will be drafting a wide receiver at some point come May, and probably sometime in the first three rounds. If this happens, shouldn’t the Eagles be in a better situation come September (albeit without Jackson) than they were to start the 2013 season?
Last year, the Eagles started the season with Jackson, a relative unknown in Cooper (the most receiving yards he had up until then was 315) and a declining veteran in Jason Avant. For 2014, they’ll (likely) begin the year with Maclin, a more proven Cooper and a top-10 wide receiver prospect. For argument’s sake, we’ll assume the Eagles don’t have any injuries to the unit during camp.
The Eagles’ top three wide receivers combined for a total of 2,614 receiving yards in 2013. Here’s how the breakdown of that stat:
Let’s assume that Cooper only marginally increases his production in 2014, tallying an even 900 receiving yards. That means, in order for the Eagles to match their 2013 production from the wideouts, the team would need 1,714 yards to come from both Jeremy Maclin and said draft pick.
Is this feasible? Of course it is. Especially since Maclin himself could easily go for 1,000 yards.
Maclin has been grossly overlooked in this city because of DeSean Jackson. So much so that you probably wouldn’t believe his split stats are very similar to those of Jackson. Here’s a look:
I didn’t take into account Jackson’s 2013 production simply because of Maclin’s injury. Prior to 2013, both players shared the same head coach and offensive scheme. Maclin hasn’t played a game yet under Chip Kelly, so it’s unfair to take into consideration that uncommon variable.
Coming out of college, Maclin was projected to be an explosive threat who excelled in space. Andy Reid may not have utilized him in such a way, but that doesn’t mean Kelly can’t.
A Chip Kelly wide receiver must excel at two things — getting open and blocking. Maclin is good at creating his own separation, but could use some work in the blocking scheme. Last time I check, though, Jackson wasn’t a great blocker either.
It seems fairly reasonable to think Chip Kelly envisions Maclin playing the exact same role as Jackson did in 2013. The numbers and physical abilities certainly back up that theory, and Maclin won’t bring along similar problems like DeSean Jackson did.
As for the draft, the Eagles could very well go wide receiver in the first round. If not then, most likely the second. Either way, they’d be bringing in a top-notch talent from a deep class. Said receiver (maybe a Brandin Cooks or Odell Beckham Jr. type player) would be an instant upgrade over Jason Avant, will simultaneously bringing support to the return game. Both Cooks and Beckham Jr. are similar to DeSean Jackson — they have very good speed while possessing small frames. If the Eagles feel like they can develop either one (or another receiver for that matter) into a productive player, it’s easy to understand why they dealt Jackson.
The ramifications of trading DeSean Jackson are not as troubling as they may seem. The Eagles have pieces on the roster who can very well step up, and will likely find another key contributor in the draft. Chip Kelly has already proven to an extent — with Riley Cooper — that he can plug anyone into his offense and get results. If the Eagles set themselves up well in the draft, they should be in a very comfortable position with their wide receivers come training camp.