Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the one and only reason why you don't release a Pro Bowl receiver in the prime of his career...
Now, turns out Jeremy Maclin was OK. At least that's what he told Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer. But the point is that at any given moment, a ligament can tear or a bone can break. Maclin knows that all too well, since he has twice torn his ACL.
And even though Maclin is less than a year removed from the latest tear, the Eagles felt comfortable enough with him, potential one-year wonder Riley Cooper and the rest of an unproven receiving corps to cut DeSean Jackson after a 1,332-yard, nine-touchdown season.
The Eagles probably figured they could get away with such a move because they had plenty of depth in the receiving corps prior to that development. Plus, the draft was loaded with quality receivers, two of whom were selected by Howie Roseman and Co. on Day 2 at Radio City Music Hall.
But injuries have to be factored in here. They're so ubiquitous in this sport that you'd be crazy not to, because it requires only a touch of bad luck for a position of strength and depth to become an Achilles' heel.
Maclin's knee is always at risk of being re-injured, but even if he stays healthy there's a chance he'll be limited for all or parts of the 2014 campaign. And second-round rookie wideout Jordan Matthews has already missed some time at organized team activities due to a hamstring injury, according to CSN Philly's Geoff Mosher.
So the Eagles are pushing their luck. The smarties at Football Outsiders have developed a cool metric in order to quantify how much teams are affected by injuries. The whole thing—AGL, or adjusted games lost—is based on two principles:
(1) Injuries to starters, injury replacements and important situational reserves matter more than injuries to bench warmers; and (2) Injured players who do take the field are usually playing with reduced ability, which is why Adjusted Games Lost is based not strictly on whether the player is active for the game or not, but instead is based on the player's listed status that week (IR/PUP, out, doubtful, questionable or probable).
What they determined this past year was that the Eagles were the second-healthiest team in the NFL, and the healthiest in the NFC by a huge margin.
|NFL's healthiest teams, 2013|
|Team||Adjusted games lost||Starter games lost|
|1. Kansas City Chiefs||27.6||22|
|2. Philadelphia Eagles||33.6||29|
|3. Cincinnati Bengals||43.4||40|
|4. Washington Redskins||43.9||22|
|5. Cleveland Browns||44.4||35|
|Football Outsiders/Dallas Morning News|
Maclin was the only starter to land on injured reserve, and aside from that only 13 games were missed all year by Philly starters, according to Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News. One year prior to that, 63 starters games were lost due to injury, which ranked above the league average.
Because that number dipped so low and because injuries are mostly random, the sheer odds are in favor of more Eagles players getting hurt this season.
I know Chip Kelly has embraced sports science in a special way, and that could be a big reason for why this team has been so healthy since he was hired. But in this violent game, nobody is immune.
Nick Foles is preparing to be a Week 1 starter for the first time since he was in college. The 25-year-old shocked the league last year, but he won't be sneaking up on opposing defenses this time around. That's why the Eagles have to give Foles as much support as possible.
Losing Jackson was already costly, but now this team is one bad break away from an offensive emergency.