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End OF Season Review..Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

maclin

The 2014 wide receivers and tight ends saw a slight increase in total yards production( 3,907 from 3,589  in 2013) but saw a decline in touchdowns (24 from 30 in 2013).  The one element this years team did not have was the big play ability that 2013 produced. The receivers and tight ends did not connect on as many big plays this season due to the ineffective play by Nick Foles early on and the lack of arm strength by Mark Sanchez who took over in the Houston Texans game.  In the off season, Chip Kelly decided to part ways with Desean Jackson and Jason Avant but countered with signing Jeremy Maclin and drafting Jordan Matthews. Many could argue letting Desean Jackson go was a mistake as he led the NFL in receptions over 40 yards (13) on a bad Washington Redskin team that finished (4-12). However you choose to look at it, having Desean Jackson on this years team would not have put the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl.

Jeremy Maclin (WR)

In 2013 Jeremy Maclin suffered a season ending ACL injury but after seeing the dynamic Chip Kelly offense in action he decided to roll the dice and sign a one year, $5.4 million deal to return to the Eagles. Going into the season there were many questions, could Maclin stay healthy for a full season, could he match the production of Desean Jackson, and how would he respond to being the teams #1 wide receiver. It is safe to say that Jeremy Maclin answered every question as he played in all 16 games, and put up close to identical numbers as Desean Jackson did in 2013 as he finished with 1,318 yards and 10 td’s compared to Jackson’s  1,332 and 9 td’s. Maclin finished 3rd in the NFL in plays over 40 yards showing he still has the speed after an ACL injury to get behind a defense. (image 1 and 2). One thing that Maclin improved on as the season went on was his route running in intermediate routes and blocking ability. This off season Maclin must work on getting more moves at the line of scrimmage to create separation from the cornerback when being jammed (image 3).

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maclin td

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maclin td1b

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maclin jam

Decisions…

Maclin clearly earned a salary increase but the Philadelphia Eagles must be careful not to over pay Maclin how they did Riley Cooper.  Maclin is a good NFL receiver but not among the elite of the likes of Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, AJ Green, etc. but is in the second tier of NFL receivers. Maclin deserves somewhere in the $8 million dollar range but anything more is over paying for someone’s numbers that is more a product of the system not necessarily the talent of the individual.

Riley Cooper (WR) 

Cooper was a huge disappointment, after he tricked the Eagles in the off season into giving him a $22,5 million deal after one good year where he posted 835 yards and 8 td’s. Cooper is one that benefitted from the offense taking the league by surprise in Chip Kelly’s first year. Teams were so concerned with stopping the LeSean McCoy and doubling Desean Jackson it left Cooper open on the backside versus single coverage. Now after defenses were able to keep 2 safeties deep, Cooper looked like the same Cooper he did prior to 2013 as he finished the season with 577 yards and 3 td’s.  Cooper was unable to get behind defenses due to his lack of speed which left him to catch nothing but screens and IN-routes. The below play is an example of what Cooper looked like much of the season. Image 1 shows Cooper running a bad route (red line) instead of getting inside relationship on the cornerback which gets intercepted (image 2).

riley cooper int

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cooper int 2

Next Season..

Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly must get a receiver in place of Cooper that can stretch the field opposite of Maclin.  Torrey Smith would be an option if Baltimore let’s him go but in no way can Cooper line up as a starting wide receiver in 2015.

Jordan Matthews (WR)

There is no question the Eagles second round draft pick in Jordan Matthews was the right pick. Matthews was clearly a huge upgrade from the long tenured Jason Avant who finished with 447 yards and 2 td’s in 2013. Matthews worked mostly out of the slot and finished his rookie season with 872 yards and 8 td’s. Matthews 6-3 frame proved dividends in the red zone an area the Eagles have struggled in of late. In the below play, Matthews catches one of his two touchdown in the red zone against the Redskins. His speed and size was a mismatch whether matched up against a linebacker or defensive back.

jm td

Next Season…

Mathews must develop his route running and learn how to set up his routes and get open in the middle of the field. Matthews is a strider due to his 6-3 size but must improve his quickness if he is going to continue working in the slot. It takes him time to get open which was part of the reason why at times he was limited to catching screen passes.

Brent Celek (TE)

In his 8th season, Celek can no longer stretch the field and get open as he finished the season with a career low 10.6 yards average. He also saw a decline in production as he finished with 340 yards and 1 touchdown compared to 502 yards and 6 td’s in 2013 even tough he was targeted three more times this season (53). Celek has always been known for his blocking however he was inconsistent much of the year which is why he lost some snaps at the end of the season.

Next Season…

It is clear that Celek is at the end of his career and the Eagles need more production out of their starting tight end. The Eagles can bring back Celek who still has two more seasons on his deal or bring in to bring in a receiver that can stretch the field and his solid in blocking. Celek is no longer a starting tight end and he doesn’t bring much to the table as he once did.

Zach Ertz (TE)

Zach Ertz in his second year improved a great deal all around. There is no secret the athletic tight end can stretch the field and is a mismatch against any linebacker and most defensive backs as he finished with season with 702 yards up from 469 in 2013. In the first play below, Ertz was able to get behind the Seahawks tough defense (image 1) for the 35 yard touchdown (image 2).  As we pointed out all year, to be on the field every play Ertz had to improve his blocking which he did as the season went on which allowed him to take some of Celek’s snaps (image 3).

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ertz blocking

Next Season…

Ertz who is growing into one of the elite tight ends in the NFL must continue to improve his craft and learn how to set up routes and not rely on his athletic ability as well as his blocking.

UP NEXT… END OF SEASON REVIEW FOR RUNNING BACKS

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