Commentary

Jeremy Maclin is prepared to step up

WR, now healthy, knows Eagles need him to assume No. 1 role vacated by Jackson

Originally Published: April 25, 2014
By Ashley Fox | ESPN.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Jeremy Maclin is the man now, even if he doesn't want to admit it publicly. For the first time since Philadelphia selected him 19th overall in the 2009 draft, Maclin will enter the season as the Eagles' No. 1 receiver.

He is not No. 2, or even No. 1A.

With the Eagles' decision to cut DeSean Jackson last month, Maclin moves one step up the wide receiver pecking order. He always has been a solid option on the outside. When healthy, he has displayed good hands, reliability and speed.

Now, given who the Eagles have on the roster at the moment, he has to be something else: a game-changing first option.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly, Jeremy Maclin
AP Photo/Brian GarfinkelReceiver Jeremy Maclin spent Chip Kelly's first season as Eagles head coach on the sideline while recovering from a torn ACL.

It would be a somewhat precarious position to be in, given that Maclin is coming off surgery to repair the ACL he tore early in training camp last year. But Maclin is almost the anti-Jackson: humble, a diligent worker, attentive to his craft and a supportive teammate.

He has spent the entire offseason the same way he spent last year's regular season: in Philadelphia at the Eagles' practice facility, rehabbing his knee, working to get better and, as he said, "getting his house in order."

That he begins the season with newfound clout is something Maclin would neither acknowledge nor indulge Thursday, the first time he has spoken to reporters since the Eagles unceremoniously said goodbye to Jackson. Maclin says his upgraded status doesn't matter to him, that he has bigger goals in mind.

"I'm going to do the best thing that Jeremy Maclin can do, and that's try to be the total package," he said. "As far as trying to replace somebody, I'm not here to replace anybody. There's nobody to replace. I'm going to go out there and do my thing and do what the coaches ask me to do, and that's not only be the best football player but be the best person I can be.

"I think once you do that, now you're reaching your full potential as a player [and] as a person, and then guys respect you for that."

That they do.

Maclin said he has not spoken to Jackson since the Eagles cut him and he signed with Washington. But even without Jackson's rare skills, Maclin said he's confident in his team.

"I think we'll be fine, man," Maclin said. "Obviously, DeSean's one of the better playmakers in this league, but we're moving forward, and I think we'll be just fine."

Maclin has never been a look-at-me type of receiver. That was Jackson. However, Maclin has not yet approached Jackson's production in Philadelphia.

Jackson was always the speedster who could stretch the field and open up things for Maclin and others. In six seasons -- Jackson was the Eagles' second-round pick in 2008, the year before Maclin arrived -- Jackson topped 1,000 yards receiving three times, led the league in yards per catch (22.5) in 2010, and scored 32 receiving touchdowns, three rushing touchdowns and four others on punt returns.

Maclin has never had a 1,000-yard receiving season, but he also did not benefit from playing in Chip Kelly's offense last season. Before Maclin got injured, Kelly was experimenting with using him all over the field, not just on the outside opposite Jackson. While Maclin missed the entire season, replaced by Riley Cooper, Jackson had his best season as a pro, catching 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns en route to his third Pro Bowl selection.

DobbsI'm going to do the best thing that Jeremy Maclin can do, and that's try to be the total package. As far as trying to replace somebody, I'm not here to replace anybody. There's nobody to replace.

-- Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin

Asked what his expectations were for this season, his first in Kelly's offense, Maclin said flatly: "To help my team win."

He should be able to do that. Maclin said his knee is back to being 100 percent healthy. He does not plan on wearing a knee brace. He said if training camp started now, he would be a full participant.

While Maclin acknowledged that at times last season he did wonder how he could have helped the Eagles as they marched to a 10-6 record and the NFC East title in Kelly's first season, he also said he expects the offense this year to be just as effective.

"They'll have me doing a little bit of everything," Maclin said. "I'm looking forward to just first getting back out there and playing football, but I'm looking forward to kind of seeing the ways they can use me and help me be successful."

Maclin said he ran routes Thursday for quarterback Nick Foles, whom Maclin has never played with in a game. "We were on point," Maclin said. "I don't think [chemistry] is going to be an issue."

Neither will replacing Jackson, at least according to Maclin. But it is true that the Eagles cut Jackson without having another true vertical threat on the roster. That type of player could arrive via the draft -- a distinct possibility in either in the first or second round -- and that would certainly help.

But while Kelly likes to employ three-wide receiver sets, he also likes to use two tight ends and has a new weapon in running back Darren Sproles, who was acquired from New Orleans via trade.

The bigger departure, reading between the lines of what Maclin said and didn't say, was slot receiver Jason Avant, a valued leader in the locker room. When the Eagles released Avant early last month after eight seasons, the team took the unusual step of publicizing statements from owner Jeffrey Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and Kelly, all of whom praised Avant as a valued member of the organization.

Maclin said other players in the locker room would have to "pick up that slack" and teach younger players how Avant handled work ethic and leadership.

"I'm going to try to be one of those guys, for sure," Maclin said.

It is another of the many responsibilities the Eagles' new No. 1 receiver will have to assume this season if the team hopes to replicate the success it had when Maclin was sidelined last season.

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