The Philadelphia Eagles have one of the most talented corps of wide receivers in the whole NFL. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are the main reason for that, since both possess great speed and they can burn the vast majority of cornerbacks and safeties with their moves and skills.
Behind them, there is a group of receivers who are aiming to make the final 53-man roster by impressing Andy Reid and the coaching staff in training camp and in preseason games.
Two of them, Jason Avant and Riley Cooper, are front-runners for the two next spots. Who else in going to make it to the final selection of players?
First of all, we need to figure out how many wide receivers the Eagles will keep. There won’t be less than five or more than seven. Let’s assume that six wide receivers will make the Eagles' 53-player roster.
DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are locks. The Eagles didn’t re-sign DJax this offseason to cut him. Maclin was picked in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft, and he and Jackson have a combined total of 38 touchdowns in the last three seasons. These guys are going nowhere and I do not look smarter for saying that.
Jason Avant will also stay with the team. An Eagle from day one of his career, Avant is the most experienced guy of the receivers group and does a pretty good job playing from the slot. He had a couple of bad drops in 2011, but still he has the trust of Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg.
Riley Cooper was picked in 2010, as the Eagles saw in him a great end-zone target, but he has failed to score more than two touchdowns is that span. The fans love him and there are still expectations for him, and that’s why he is more likely to be on the roster than not. However, he won’t start a single game, unless one of the higher-ranked wideouts gets injured.
That leaves us with two spots to be filled. The competition will be tough: Chad Hall, Marvin McNutt, Ronald Johnson, Elvis Akpla, Mardy Gilyard, Damaris Johnson, Jamel Hamler and McKay Jacobson will have to show they have what it takes to play in the NFL and provide Philadelphia the best backup options.
After being on the team roster in 2010, Chad Hall was a member of the practice squad last year before being promoted to the active roster near the end of the regular season. He hasn’t offered much, but it appears there is some kind of bond between him and the Eagles. I believe he will be waived again and, if no teams claim him, he will return as a member of the practice squad.
Marvin McNutt was picked in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL draft. He is the leader in receiving touchdowns for the University of Iowa. At 6’4”, he is an inch taller than Cooper and, in my opinion, he can be the pleasant surprise for the Eagles. I’m sure he will make the roster and will win the No. 4 spot from Cooper.
Ronald Johnson was a practice squad member for Philadelphia last season as well. He was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2011 NFL draft, but he didn’t satisfy and was waived in early September 2011. He has slim to zero chances of making it to the 53-player roster.
Elvis Akpla signed with the Eagles as an undrafted rookie. Sigmund Bloom tells you all you need to know about him in one of his Bleacher Report articles. I don’t know much about Akpla, but there’s a reason I believe he won’t be anything more than a practice squad wideout for the Eagles.
And, that reason is named:
Damaris Johnson, the 22-year-old receiver who also signed as an undrafted rookie. Johnson is probably the best out of the on-the-roster-bubble wide receivers. Brandon Boykin can also return kicks, but one more option is always welcome. With the Eagles looking for a kick returner, he has an advantage to take the last WR spot.
Mardy Gilyard can also return kicks but, after passing from the Rams and the Jets without making any impact, it looks like he doesn’t have much to offer. Jamel Hamler and McKay Jacobson are, more or less, training camp players and can only hope to be signed for the practice squad. It will be a huge surprise if any of them gets a spot.
The Eagles’ WR depth chart should look like that after the preseason games:
1) DeSean Jackson
2) Jeremy Maclin
3) Jason Avant
4) Marvin McNutt
5) Riley Cooper
6) Damaris Johnson