Les Bowen: The bottom line: Maclin catching on quickly
Early on, it was hard to know what to make of Jeremy Maclin. The training-camp holdout, even if it was agent-generated, was a spectacularly bad idea. It got the rookie wideout from Missouri off to a slow start, without substantially boosting the contract he ultimately signed. Maclin had some drops in the preseason, lost the punt-return job, didn't get a ball thrown his way in the season opener.
Early on, it was hard to know what to make of Jeremy Maclin.
The training-camp holdout, even if it was agent-generated, was a spectacularly bad idea. It got the rookie wideout from Missouri off to a slow start, without substantially boosting the contract he ultimately signed. Maclin had some drops in the preseason, lost the punt-return job, didn't get a ball thrown his way in the season opener.
But Kevin Curtis' continuing injury problems cleared the way for Maclin to become a starter, and now he might be there a while. The 23-yard touchdown catch Sunday between two defenders was a tremendous throw from Donovan McNabb, but also a telling one. McNabb is not known for trusting his receivers to outfight defenders for the ball. That was exactly what the QB did on that play, and Maclin was up to the task.
Eagles coach Andy Reid was just as taken with the fact that Maclin escorted teammates into the end zone on long runs in each of the last two games, throwing the final block in both cases - DeSean Jackson's 67-yard end-around against the Redskins, and Leonard Weaver's 41-yard TD run against the Giants.
"Normally, he was the one with the ball in college, as opposed to having to block,'' Reid said, when asked if this part of Maclin's game stood out to the Birds when they were preparing for the draft.
Reid noted that Jackson also is a willing blocker, despite his slight frame.
It really is amazing, when you think back a few years, to the kinds of receivers Reid seemed to gravitate toward; no one would have pictured the Birds drafting and starting Jackson and Maclin. Somewhere along the way, Big Red seems to have decided that star-level talent and hard-nosed, team-first play are not mutually exclusive at the wide receiver position, after all.
Maybe there's still hope for the notion that offensive balance is good, more than once in a while.
-- Maybe we've been looking at the Michael Vick thing all wrong. He got just one snap before kneel-down time Sunday, but it was a 4-yard run for a first down on third-and-1 from the Giants' 15 near the end of the first quarter. Regarding the continuing question, "Why have him around?'' Well, you need three quarterbacks. Vick essentially is A.J. Feeley. If the Birds still had Feeley, would he have converted any third downs Sunday? No, he would have worn a baseball cap and congratulated guys as they jogged off the field. And now the Eagles have Jeremiah Trotter to do that, anyway. (We kid, Trot, we kid.)
-- Speaking of Trot, though, it's pretty clear his role now, as Will Witherspoon gets situated, is mostly ceremonial. Trotter hinted at that late last week when he talked about how happy he is just to be in the locker room again, etc. Maybe Trot can scrape off enough rust to provide a little more on-field help at some point, but in the meantime, as long as he does what he's supposed to do on special teams and provides a voice of experience for younger teammates, where's the harm? You'd rather have some guy from another team's practice squad doing that? Of course, if something happens to Witherspoon and Trot really has to play, this might look a little different.
-- There's a lot to like about Brent Celek's game, particularly what he does after the catch. Andy Reid was pretty much gushing yesterday about his third-year tight end. "They are similar," Reid said, when asked if Celek was at all like Cowboys Pro Bowler Jason Witten, whom the Birds will face Sunday night. "They're both very physical players. They both make tough catches. I had a chance to coach Witten in the Pro Bowl this past year, and I have a lot of respect for him. He's a good player.'' Celek, Reid said "has got that natural core strength" essential to breaking tackles.
Remember last week's note about how the Giants were 22-6 when Eli Manning doesn't throw a pick, 25-25 when he does? Make that 25-26. And Eli, Marc Bulger called. He wants his look of dejected hopelessness back.
That Leonard Weaver was such a beast, waiting to be unleashed?
Another NFC East opponent, another jihad.
Last week, you might recall, the New York Giants defense swore vengeance over Donovan McNabb's pick-up-the-Giants'-sideline-phone foolery during last January's Eagles playoff victory at the Meadowlands. They'd posted the photo in their locker room! There would be blood!
We all saw how that one went.
So now, the Dallas Cowboys are coming to town, and boy, are they angry!
The Eagles' transgression was beating the 'Boys, 44-6, in last season's finale, the capper on an amazing day that brought the Birds an unlikely playoff berth. No phones or other props were involved, but Dallas is ticked, nonetheless.
"Trust me, that 44-6 game is going to be in our heads," wideout and punt returner Patrick Crayton told Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw after Dallas romped to its third victory in a row Sunday, 38-17 over visiting Seattle.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones noted that while rosters change and events of 2 or 3 years ago quickly recede in memory, last year's season-ending pratfall is pretty fresh for most of the key participants.
Dallas is playing well, after a shaky start. Winner of this matchup of 5-2 teams is the NFC East leader at the halfway point. But if I remember correctly, many of the Cowboys' wounds were self-inflicted on that 44-6 afternoon. The Eagles didn't run up the score with late bomb-throwing; they scored their final points on a field goal with 6:04 left in the third quarter. If the Cowboys want to be angry at someone because they didn't show up for the game that defined their season, they might try punching the mirror. But of course, that isn't the way sports works, in Dallas or anywhere else.