Observations and notes from the Eagles' 27-20 loss to the Redskins on Sunday:
ON SECOND THOUGHT
On Sunday, Jeremy Maclin became the eighth wide receiver in NFL history to amass at least 55 catches and 750 yards in each of his first four seasons, joining Gary Clark, Larry Fitzgerald, Joey Galloway, Marvin Harrison, Keyshawn Johnson, Sterling Sharpe and Randy Moss.
As impressive as that sounds – and it is noteworthy – Maclin is last among the eight in total catches (253) and yards (3,420) over that span.
While his consistency over the first four years of his career is commendable, Maclin has yet to have the breakout season many thought he was capable of after his first two seasons.
There's a theory that Maclin, who will be entering the last year of his contract, could be a potential trade chip in off-season. Since DeSean Jackson's contract extension virtually assures that he will be back, Maclin could be expendable if the Eagles are looking for a receiver to complement Jackson.
Maclin and Jackson are similar in that they aren't big-bodied receivers that can routinely make catches in traffic, although the former has been more productive in the red zone.
With Jackson sideline since Nov. 26, Maclin has made a strong case that he should return next season. In four games without Jackson, the Eagles' 2009 first round pick has caught 24 passes for 331 yards and two touchdowns.
Against the Redskins he led the Eagles with eight catches for 116 yards and scored the first touchdown (detailed below) when quarterback Nick Foles hit him from 27 yards out.
Maclin's best moment of the game may home come on the 38-yard grab he made in the third quarter. His diving grab was impressive, but Maclin got open when he improvised and ran upfield after recognizing that Foles was out of the pocket.
Fair or unfair, Maclin has a bit of reputation for being soft. He will occasionally fall to the turf rather than take on a tackler and has been in-and-out of a handful of games over his career with various bumps and bruises.
But he's only missed five games because of injury.
"He's battled through a lot of things the last couple of years and I'm proud of him for stepping up the way that he has," Andy Reid said on Monday. "He's done a good job."
The fear from some Eagles fans is that Maclin is another Reggie Brown – a receiver the Eagles drafted high that peaked in his first two seasons and then went into steady decline.
The fact that Maclin has maintained the pace of his second season shows that he is no Brown. He may not have had that bust-out year that many thought would come in 2012, but at 24 he still has time to deliver on those expectations.
REWIND THE TAPE
The Eagles' patchwork offensive line has taken a lot of heat of late. The unit has been blamed for everything from Foles' mediocre play to the lack of an agreement before the fiscal cliff. But they did their job on Maclin's 27-yard touchdown on the Eagles' opening drive.
On first down, the Eagles lined up in a bunch formation with two receivers on each side. LeSean McCoy was in the backfield next to Foles, who was in the shotgun. The Redskins rushed five defenders. Wide receiver Jason Avant and tight end Brent Celek chip blocked and the Eagles' five linemen fended off Washington's pass rushers.
Maclin, lined up to the right and in the slot, beat cornerback D.J. Johnson as he ran corner post. Foles, from a clean pocket, saw the separation immediately and floated a perfect spiral to Maclin in stride before the safety had any chance to come over and break the pass up.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
1. In his first game post-wide nine, Kurt Coleman avoided the mistakes that plagued his time playing in the scheme. The Eagles safety did not make any game-changing plays, however. Coleman did have strong coverage on a Robert Griffin III throw over the middle that sailed too high in the first quarter. He came up and made a stop on Alfred Morris in the second, but the Redskins running back carried him a few additional yards and gained six yards total. A few plays later, Coleman escaped a block and dropped Morris for a short gain. In the fourth quarter, the safety stopped tight end Logan Paulsen short of a first down after a six-yard catch. However, on the next play, Coleman inched too close to the line and reacted late to a pass to tight end Chris Cooley that moved the sticks.
2. Dennis Kelly has been getting invaluable experience in his rookie season. The fifth-round pick has now started in nine straight games – the last six at right tackle. He struggled to contain Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan for much of the afternoon, but had some moments, especially during the Eagles' final drive. The bad: Kelly couldn't handle nose tackle Chris Neild on the Eagles' opening drive and a hurried Foles threw an errant pass to Maclin. Kerrigan out-muscled Kelly in the second and sacked Foles. Later in the third quarter, Kerrigan pushed Kelly back with a bull rush and Foles tripped over the tackle's foot and fell. On back-to-back plays at the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth, Kerrigan ran stunts and Kelly failed to pick up Neild. The good: Kelly had a strong lead block on a stretch play in the third that sprung McCoy loose for six yards. He took care of his man on Dion Lewis' 17-yard touchdown run in the fourth. And he kept Kerrigan away from Foles for most of the Eagles' final drive.
3. DeMeco Ryans did not have one of his better games, although the middle linebacker was still relatively active. Ryans did miss two early tackles – first when Morris ran by him for five yards on his first carry, and then a quarter later when tailback Evan Royster scooted seven yards on third down and short. There were a number of times when Morris ran that Ryans was pushed back and out of the play. He did record his team-leading 16th tackle for loss in the first. But Ryans was credited with only one more solo tackle. In pass defense, he was targeted twice and gave up completions for a total of 37 yards. Ryans is likely back next season if the Eagles stay with a 4-3, but there is some uncertainty over whether he is still a three-down linebacker.
Foles fared much better against the blitz than he did the first time he faced the Redskins. Last month, Washington sent extra pass rushers on 19 of 50 drop backs. Foles completed only 8 of 18 passes for 86 yards and threw two interceptions. He was also sacked once. On Sunday, he was 7 of 11 for 100 yards and a touchdown when the Redskins blitzed. He was also sacked three times, though, and ran once.
THIS AND THAT
-- Reid said that he had planned to use Bryce Brown more that he did, but said McCoy kept telling him that he felt fine enough to play. McCoy played 64 of 76 snaps, a percentage in line with how much he is typically used. Brown, who was still holding the ball out when he rushed, played just ten snaps.
-- Jason Avant, who finished with eight receptions for 70 yards, has silently put up numbers in line with the rest of his career. If Avant tallies more than four catches for 71 yards next Sunday at the New York Giants he will top career marks of 52 catches for 679 yards set last season.
-- McCoy had his best game receiving (nine catches for 77 yards) since Dec. 2010 when he caught eight passes for 86 yards and a touchdown against the Texans.
-- The names Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie weren't called very often on Sunday. The cornerbacks were either shutting down the Redskins' receivers or the Redskins opted to attack other areas of the Eagles' pass defense. Asomugha was targeted only twice and allowed two catches for 13 yards. Rodgers-Cromartie also saw only two passes in his direction. Both were caught for 33 yards.
WHAT ANDY SAID
On how confident he is that this roster could be a contender again:
"I think, obviously, the team is closer than what people might think and that's a great thing for the Philadelphia Eagles."
WHAT ANDY MEANT