Jeremy Maclin sat in a room at Benjamin Franklin High School on Tuesday morning, helping students with a financial education computer game that uses a football simulation to teach lessons about money. The Eagles wide receiver coached half of the class, a group representing his team, and picked run or pass plays of various difficulties. A multiple-choice question about finances appeared on the screen, and a correct answer produced a successful play.
With the play-calling at his whim, Maclin requested some running plays for his students. Told it was more rushes than Eagles observers are used to seeing, even Maclin laughed.
"We had to feed [LeSean] McCoy the ball!" Maclin said. "Then hit them up top for me and [DeSean] Jackson!"
Maclin's play-calling during the promotional event for Visa Financial Football might be prescient. He oversaw a nearly balanced offense, and the Eagles beat the Atlanta Falcons in the simulated game. That formula could help Sunday when the Eagles host the Falcons at Lincoln Financial Field.
It also will help if Maclin plays to his potential. Seemingly on the verge of a breakout season, Maclin has been inconsistent through the first six games. He enters Week 8 with 20 receptions for 295 yards and three touchdowns, although 13 of those catches and 226 of those yards came in two games. A hip pointer that bothered Maclin in Week 2 and sidelined him in Week 3 slowed him down, and now Maclin needs to average more than 77 yards per game if he hopes to record his first 1,000-yard season.
"I've just got to remain patient," Maclin said. "I battled the hip injury, but I'm 100-percent fine now. I'll continue to go out there and be available when the team needs me."
This could be an opportune time for another big game. Maclin's two finest games have come against Atlanta. In 2010, he had seven catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Falcons. In 2011, he made 13 catches for 171 yards and two scores in a loss to Atlanta.
Last year's performance was memorable for two other plays. Maclin dropped a fourth-down pass 22 yards from the end zone on a potential winning drive in the fourth quarter. He also withstood a crushing helmet-to-helmet hit from Atlanta's Dunta Robinson. The NFL fined Robinson $40,000.
"I've had some successful games against Atlanta; two of the biggest games of my career have come against Atlanta the last couple of years," Maclin said. "Obviously, the fourth-down drop sticks out. . . . Also, the big hit. There's a lot of things going on."
In three career games against the Falcons, Maclin has had receptions of 83 yards, 56 yards, and 43 yards. Those big plays have been a staple in the Eagles' offense under coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, yet seem infrequent this season. Maclin has a 70-yard touchdown reception and a 46-yard catch this year, but those have been among the few fireworks for an offense that has more plays of 20-plus yards than any other NFL team since 2010.
"The home-run ball is not always going to be there," Maclin said. "In order to be successful, we need to take what the defense gives us. Over the course of the game, we'll have the opportunity to get the ball downfield and we've got to capitalize on it."
Maclin continued to say how "on paper," the Eagles "feel we have the best team in the league." Veteran Jason Avant wanted to erase that perception last week when he said the Eagles must stop thinking about themselves as a talented 3-3 team and instead just view themselves as a 3-3 team. Maclin agreed with Avant despite his previous remark.
"Unfortunately, games aren't played on paper," Maclin said. "If games are played on paper, we'd be in good shape. That's not how they are. But with the guys we have, with the core guys, with the guys we have helping us, I feel like if everybody out there does their job . . . we can compete and beat anyone in the league."
Maclin believes the quickest way to reverse the team's fortunes is by limiting turnovers. He does not believe there are major issues with the offense, and still insists the Eagles possess the big-play potential he has displayed when playing the Falcons.
"Imagine what we could be like if we cut down on the turnovers," Maclin said. "If we cut the turnovers, that number's through the roof."
Birds sign center. The Eagles made a minor move on their offensive line by signing veteran center Matt Tennant and releasing Steve Vallos.
Tennant, 25, was a fifth-round draft pick by the New Orleans Saints in 2010. He spent two seasons with the Saints before joining the New England Patriots this season. The Patriots cut Tennant on Saturday.
Tennant has played 28 career games and has never started. He arrives as the backup center for Dallas Reynolds, who has been struggling.
Get Birds news as it happens on Twitter: @Jeff_McLane @zberm
Falcons at Eagles: Sunday at 1 p.m. (Fox29)
Line: Eagles by 2 1/2EndText