The top of the Eagles' wide receiver lineup is set and on solid footing after a summer of turmoil a year ago.
DeSean Jackson is signed, participating in early practices, and seems more at ease than he has been in some time, particularly after a training camp holdout last year. Jeremy Maclin, after battling a mysterious illness in 2011, losing weight, and missing most of the offseason preparation, is healthy, has added seven pounds of muscle and bulked up to 205, and says he has not lost any speed or quickness.
"So much more ready," than last season, Maclin said Thursday. "I wish the season started tomorrow, that's how ready I am."
Quarterback Michael Vick, saying Maclin reminds him of former Cowboy Michael Irvin in size and route running, believes the receiver is poised for his best season yet.
Jason Avant still has the slot-receiver role. But after the top three, there is a deep competition under way among recent draft picks and young free agents.
Riley Cooper and Marvin McNutt each have the kind of height, at 6-foot-3, and big frames that the Eagles' top three receivers lack. Undrafted speedster Damaris Johnson has opened eyes early in offseason practices as Ron Johnson and Chad Hall also scrap for catches and a chance to make the roster.
"Our wideout group has probably the best depth in the league," Cooper said. "We've got nine, 10 guys that are awesome."
Added Maclin, "If you're afraid of competition, get out of the game. That's how you've got to look at it."
Cooper, a fifth-round pick in 2010, begins the offseason as the fourth receiver, but stuck behind the top trio, he hasn't had many opportunities in his first two years with the Eagles.
"I'm the fourth guy. I accept that. I've just got to go out every day and try to get better, same as everybody else," Cooper said.
Wide receivers coach David Culley noted that Cooper is getting his first full NFL offseason.
"I expect him to really make a jump and be the kind of player he's capable of being," Culley said.
Last year, Cooper had just 16 receptions. He wasn't even targeted until the Eagles' eighth game. Seen as a potentially big, end-zone receiver, Cooper was targed just four times inside opponents' 20-yard-line, resulting in one completion, a touchdown. All four tries were in the Eagles' win over the New York Giants.
Enter McNutt, a similarly sized sixth-round pick from Iowa.
"I like his size, he's a tough guy. He's a prototype West Coast [offense]-type guy from the standpoint with his height, weight," Culley said. "He didn't time as well at the combine as we thought he would, but he's a big, strong kid."
McNutt, with his long, loping strides, is behind Hall, but it's early, and he is still learning. With no pads on in May practices, he hasn't had a chance to show the physical side of his game.
Culley would like to see Cooper and McNutt use their height to complement the speed of Jackson and Maclin, and not just near the end zone, where big receivers are most often looked to as targets.
"Obviously they have an advantage down there because of their size, especially with some of the smaller corners," Culley said. "You look at them to be all around, not just in the red zone."
Culley also noted that size isn't the only route to success in the red zone. Shorter, quick wideouts can be dangerous, too, as plays develop fast and defenses have little time to react.
"If [defenses] don't get them off the line of scrimmage, it becomes an advantage for you down there because of how quickly they get to where they need to be," Culley said.
Hall, who has bounced between the practice squad and active roster the last two years, faces stiff competition for the fifth-receiver slot.
The team spent a draft pick on McNutt, so they are invested in him, and Damaris Johnson, a blazingly fast undrafted free agent from Tulsa, has made an early impression. He's generously listed at 5-8 and 175 pounds, and the question is whether he can keep up the pace once the pads come on at training camp. Ron Johnson, a 2011 practice squad member, also impressed Maclin.
"Guys have had an opportunity to show their ability," Maclin said. "Both Johnsons have taken full advantage of that."
It's early, though. The competition is just beginning.
"You can never have enough good receivers," Vick said. "You just have to find them."