The Eagles should look to replace Jeremy Maclin in a number of ways. They shouldn’t just rely on one player to make up for the lost of their most consistent receiver, because I don’t think they have a player who can do that by himself. I do think they have the talent on the roster to be just as productive without Maclin as they were with him.
Wide receiver Riley Cooper is slated to be the starter, but you’re surely to see second-year speedster Damaris Johnson taking some of the snaps in place of Maclin. Cooper can do something that Chip Kelly values much more than Andy Reid and that’s block for the running game. Kelly knows that a good block downfield by a wide receiver can spring a running back loose for big yardage.
Eagles number one slot receiver Jason Avant is also a very good blocker, maybe the best on the team, but neither he nor Cooper has the speed to replace Maclin as outside wide receivers. Johnson on the other hand has the speed to put pressure on a defense because of his speed.
Cooper has the size necessary to be a good NFL wide receiver, but he’s yet to show the coaches that he can be a game changer. This is perfect timing for him to take his game up to another level. He must eliminate any drops and get deep on the coverage a couple of times.
Johnson should flourish in this offense because he’s going to create matchup problems with his quickness and speed. There’s no way one player is going to consistently tackle him in the open field. The fact that this young player can run the ball out of the backfield in the running back position will give Chip Kelly the type of versatility which will create major problems for opposing defenses.
You can bet that he’ll be shifted into the backfield and the Birds will run the ball against a defense heavy with defensive backs.
The other answer for replacing Maclin and his production is the Birds tight ends. The Birds have a bevy of quality tight ends and I think they could do a great job of being productive for the Birds in place of Maclin. You’ve got the starter Brent Celek, who has shown us he can make big plays through the air. The H-back James Casey is a very good receiver. Rookie Zach Ertz is going to create matchup problems for NFL defenses.
I really like what I see out of backup tight end Clay Harbor. He may be the fastest of the Birds tight ends. Free agent signee Derek Carrier has shown good speed as a backup tight end, as well. I think the increased utilization of the tight end position would be a great move for the Eagles offense. It will be a great accompaniment to their running game, which is the strength of the offense.