Our offseason position-by-position previews are in full swing. Today, it's a look at one position that includes a crucial offseason question that will set the stage for the position in the future ...
2011 Season In Review
As much talent as the Eagles have at the wide receiver position, there were some concerns at the start of training camp to open the 2011 season.
Two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver
The Eagles also dealt with the uncertainty regarding the future of
Amazingly enough, Jackson, Maclin and
Jackson led the team for the fourth straight year with 961 receiving yards at an average of 16.6 yards per catch. No receiver in Eagles history has more receptions (229) or yards (4,085) than Jackson in the first four years of his career. As good as Jackson's numbers were, he missed a team meeting which resulted in being deactivated for the Arizona game. Head coach Andy Reid also kept Jackson off of the field for the fourth quarter of the loss to the Patriots. At the end of the year, Jackson apologized for how he handled himself during his contract year.
Maclin, meanwhile, was ready for the season opener despite his medical scare. At one point, it was believed he had lymphoma which proved not to be the case. Despite the difficult offseason, Maclin persevered to lead the team with 63 catches to go along with 859 yards and five touchdowns. He was well on pace for 1,000 yards receiving until shoulder and hamstring injuries forced him to miss three games. Maclin had three 100-yard games this season including a 13-catch, 171-yard, two-touchdown performance in Atlanta. The 6-0, 198-pound Maclin's toughness is on display each and every week. He is an incredibly fierce blocker, willing to sacrifice himself to help his teammates get additional yardage. And in the red zone, Maclin had four touchdowns this season to increase his career total to 12 scores inside the 20-yard line in three NFL seasons.
Avant is one of the team's leaders and also one of the preeminent slot players in the league. He also extended his amazing streak of having increased his reception total in each of his six NFL seasons - from seven as a rookie in 2006 to 52 this past season. An underrated force on third downs, Avant converted 15 of his 17 third-down catches into a fresh set of downs in 2011.
Jackson (961), Maclin (859) and tight end
End Of Season Depth Chart
X-Receiver: 1. Jeremy Maclin, 2. Riley Cooper. 3. Chad Hall
Z-Receiver: 1. DeSean Jackson (UFA), 2. Jason Avant, 3. Ron Johnson
Injured Reserve: Steve Smith (UFA)
To Be Answered
The obvious question is what will happen with DeSean Jackson, who is set to become a free agent. Eagles Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie is open to Jackson's return. Jackson said at the end of the season he would play under the franchise tag if the Eagles wanted to go that route. The Eagles have the option to place the tag beginning February 20.
If the Eagles wanted to move on from Jackson, there are a number of tempting options available in free agency including San Diego's Vincent Jackson, New Orleans' Marques Colston, Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe and Wes Welker in New England among others.
The Jackson decision will have a domino effect. If Jackson is not re-signed or replaced by another free agent, will the Eagles attack the position in the draft? Philosophically, will the Eagles target another speedster? Do they want a bigger-framed receiver? Will the Eagles follow in the footsteps of New England and employ the two tight-end set more?
Jeremy Maclin has proven to be an outstanding all-around receiver and a full and healthy offseason should allow him to continue his development.
Speaking of bigger-framed receivers, one has to wonder how much the lockout hurt Riley Cooper? Senior offensive assistant/wide receivers coach David Culley could make Cooper his pet project this offseason.
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