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WRs: A Group Worth Watching

Posted Feb 7, 2014

There are going to be players added and names removed from the depth chart, and once again the wide receiver spots are going to be fascinating to watch as the Eagles construct this 2014 roster ...

Joe Anderson is the newest addition, a two-year member of the Chicago Bears with whom he primarily played special teams after signing as an undrafted rookie from Texas Southern. What kind of impact Anderson makes, of course, is to be determined. Clearly, the Eagles liked Anderson enough to sign him on Friday and add him to a very, very interesting mix.

There are going to be more additions, of course. The Eagles could carry upwards of 15 receivers on the 90-man roster in training camp as they welcome competition and see how the talent shakes out, who rises to the top and who falls to the wayside.

A Look At The Wide Receivers
Name Height Weight Age Notes
Joe Anderson 6-1 196 25 Former Bear has kick return experience
Jason Avant 6-0 212 30 Veteran slot receiver caught 38 passes in 2013
Arrelious Benn 6-2 220 25 Big-bodied receiver coming off ACL injury
Riley Cooper 6-3 222 26 Set to be an unrestricted free agent in March
B.J. Cunningham 6-2 215 24 Played two games, finished on practice squad
DeSean Jackson 5-10 175 27 Caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards, 9 TDs in '13
Damaris Johnson 5-8 170 24 Averaged 25.7 yards per kick return in 2013
Jeremy Maclin 6-0 198 25 Set to be an unrestricted free agent in March
Jeff Maehl 6-0 184 24 Played in all 16 games, mainly on special teams
Ifeanyi Momah 6-7 239 24 Spent 2013 preseason with Eagles; raw prospect
Will Murphy 6-2 193 23 Spent majority of '13 season on practice squad
Brad Smith 6-2 213 30 Mid-season addition also aided special teams

Wide receiver has always been a point of fascination for Eagles fans, who spent much of the 2000s looking for more, more, more at the position. Then came Terrell Owens and all that he brought to the table -- remarkable talent and production with headaches off the field that eventually cut short a career that would have been oh ... so ... great in Philadelphia.

When the team drafted DeSean Jackson in 2008 and then Jeremy Maclin, the wide receiver spots were infused with two fine talents and very productive players. The wide receiver chatter, among the fans and media, anyway, slowed down. The Eagles filled in around Jackson and Maclin, using the always-reliable Jason Avant in the slot, growing Riley Cooper into a reliable No. 4 and working through some numbers to find the fifth receiver on the roster.

The picture at wide receiver as the Eagles discuss their plans for free agency and the draft ahead is, in the word of general manager Howie Roseman to 94WIP earlier this week, "complicated." Roseman is right on there; the Eagles are going to have some difficult decisions to make regarding the futures of some of their players and, at the same time, upgrade where possible.

Wide receiver is, then, a very hot topic for discussion as we whittle away the days until free agency begins on March 11.

By then we will have some idea of the Eagles' intentions. Both Maclin, who missed last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, and Cooper, who had his best season stepping in to replace Maclin in the starting lineup, are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. Do both players sign with the Eagles and stay in Philadelphia? Do both players test the market? Does one stay and one go?

Nobody has the answers to the questions now, but the conversation among all of us wondering what is happening behind closed doors is certainly going to heat up. This is the first time in years the Eagles have had hard decisions -- multiple decisions -- to make about their top receivers. They were able to sign Jackson to a long-term contract prior to the 2012 campaign, and deftly worked about a fair deal. A new challenge presents itself with Maclin and Cooper.

Beyond that, the Eagles know they can always add more firepower at wide receiver. While Jackson and Cooper had the best seasons of their careers in 2013, Avant's numbers dipped as the offense involved the tight ends a bit more. Johnson, after a strong and promising preseason, caught only 2 passes after offering some enticing possibilities in his rookie season. Jeff Maehl and Brad Smith played very little in the offense.

Would it surprise anyone if the Eagles added at wide receiver? They play an up-tempo game on offense and they need wide receivers in waves. The more depth the Eagles, the more they can mix their personnel packages and run defenses ragged with the fresh legs.

Then again, Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly may bank on the promise of Johnson and Maehl, who can only benefit from the second season in the scheme. Perhaps veteran Arrelious Benn, who missed all of last year with a knee injury, is the big-bodied wide receiver to help in the red zone and add some impact down the field. Maybe it's Anderson who emerges in a new offense that better plays to his talents.

The point is, wide receiver is again going to be a hot point to watch. The Eagles have some work to do here. We're all going to be watching. It's a critical group for an offense that set franchise  marks in points in 2013. How much changes moving forward? How much stays the same?

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