By Kevin McGuire
CBS Local Sports presents 32 Players in 32 Days, a daily feature focusing on one impact player from each NFL team.
Jeremy Maclin – WR – #18
Height: 6′ 0″
Weight: 198 lb
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
Experience: 6 years
When the Philadelphia Eagles stunned the NFL world by cutting ties with Desean Jackson, the question was “Why?” For those digging a bit deeper, the question was quickly “How?” How are the Eagles going to replace Jackson in Chip Kelly’s offense? Simply put, they cannot, but the focus will now be on Jeremy Maclin to embrace being a No. 1 receiver for the first time since he entered the NFL.
The success of the 2014 Philadelphia Eagles will be dependent on the ability of quarterback Nick Foles to avoid making mistakes and keep his calm demeanor in the huddle and on the field. The running game should be more than capable of taking the pressure off the Pro Bowl quarterback, with LeSean McCoy ready to prove why he believes he is the best running back in the game and newcomer and veteran Darren Sproles looking to mix things up as well. The tight ends will continue to develop in Kelly’s offense and will be relied upon with regularity this season, because the wide receiver position is quite a question mark entering the 2014 season in Philadelphia.
Maclin, entering his sixth season in the NFL and fifth on the field after missing the entire 2013 season due to injury, is ready to get back on the field and contribute. His ability to stay healthy and even his work ethic have been thrust under a microscope this offseason, and perhaps for good reason. Maclin has developed a bit of a fragile reputation, through no fault of his own of course, but when a player carries such lofty expectations and is expected to make up for the lost production of a key offensive weapon, that is all fair game. The pressure is on for Maclin to not only prove he is capable of being a full-time, go-to receiver for Foles, but also that he can lead younger receivers like NFL draft pick Jordan Matthews out of Vanderbilt and last year’s additions like Ifeanyi Momah.
Jackson left the Eagles offense with 1,334 yards from scrimmage to make-up somewhere. Maclin must be a player that can be depended on to fill that void. History would suggest he will come up short of doing it all by himself. Jackson had a career year last season with 1,332 receiving yards for his third season with 1,000-yards or more. Maclin has yet to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark, although he came close in 2010 with 964 yards. Fortunately, if Kelly plays his cards right at other positions, Maclin will not be needed to match Jackson’s production, pound for pound. Maclin is much more likely to compile yardage between 800 and 900 yards. With Jackson gone, Maclin should be in great position for a career high in receiving yards in Kelly’s offense, but Maclin must find ways to break off of defenders and get into open space the way Jackson was generally able to do with his speed.
Maclin is not going to have to be Jerry Rice or Terrell Owens. He merely needs to be a receiver Foles can have confidence in the majority of the time he is dropping back, while the tight ends help chip in the rest of the production in the passing game.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.