The immeadiate and long-term future is generating hope and potential for the Philadelphia Eagles' wide receiver corps in 2009.
Seems like a case of deja vu.
Fans of the Eagles have recounted (on occassion) the lack of performance from the wide receiver position during Andy Reid's tenure began in 1999. Reid's very first game was lost in part by journeyman Brian Finneran's mistake (off a high velocity throw from Doug Pederson) in which the ball was intercepted for a touchdown, leading to a stellar 17-point comeback from the Arizona Cardinals.
Has the wide receiver position improved?
That question stirred with the heat of an oven-fresh cheesesteak for 10 years, now. Reflecting at the stellar and venerable names Jim Johnson's defense has produced, one must question the band of misfits Reid's receiving offense has produced over the years.
1999 can be removed from placing an assessment to Reid's wide receivers, since that was his first year. Starting in 2000, the Eagles started two veterans in Charles Johnson and Torrance Small. They played solid football and opened the door to Donovan McNabb's potential. Give credit to McNabb's fresh legs and tight end Chad Lewis, though, on a unique playoff run.
In 2001, Reid and the front-office were serious in providing weapons (other than Chad Lewis) for the rising star McNabb. Then comes James Thrash in free agency and Freddie Mitchell in the first round of the Draft.
It's hard to fault the Eagles on their efforts because the draft is a crapshoot first and foremost (although Reggie Wayne was selected five slots later by the Colts), and Thrash was well utilized in trick plays, special teams and much more. Looking back, Thrash was always destined to be a No. 2 wide receiver and it would have helped if Andy Reid realized that sooner. Add along to Todd Pinkston (selected in 2000), and you had a group set in stone until 2004.
Through those dark years where the Eagles failed three straight NFC Championship games (2001—2003), other wide receivers contributed, with names including Antonio Freeman, Damaene Douglas, Greg Lewis, and Billy McMullen. This obviously was not a group campaigning for Fantasy Football points.
Then, the thunder clouds broke free and Terrell Owens was a heaven-sent miracle...for just 2004. The long story short is that Owens became the ''x-factor'' to the Super Bowl run while losing to a high-powered Patriots' dynasty.
Then, Owens and Freddie Mitchell ran their mouths out of town and the hapless Eagles were plagued by a faulty wide receiver group and McNabb injuries. With the help of quarterback Jeff Garcia and newly acquired Donte Stallworth, the offense showcased potential in a surprise playoff run in the 2006 season.
Since then, the Eagles have had to deal with a string of flops (Darnerian McCants, Bethel Johnson, Jabar Gaffney, Jeremy Bloom) that showed promise but nothing more than a roster spot. The Eagles let go of Stallworth, which brings up the mystic questions to whether or not he'd still get into that driving incident if he'd stayed in town.
2007 to the present day features Kevin Curtis, Reggie Brown, Hank Baskett, and Jason Avant. By adding 2008 rookie sensation DeSean Jackson and 2009 rookie Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles add plenty of spice to the receiver rack.
By looking at the potential in everyone and listing in depth, it seems as though it will be Curtis starting along side Jackson, adding Baskett in for deep yardage, Avant for slot situations, and Maclin for a mix of both. Reggie Brown might be a training camp cut by the looks of it, since Philadelphia also drafted Brandon Gibson in the middle rounds.
Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, and that includes offense. The repetitive hope for McNabb's arsenal always seems to fall short, which has shifted blame to the higher ranks.
Will 2009 be a season of change? Will Jackson's 912 receiving yards carry over? Will Curtis step up and become a leader? Will Maclin become the next stud?
Many questions have been asked for 10 years, and as McNabb is entering the dreaded stages of his dwindling career, not much has been delivered yet.