THANKS TO the departures of Jason Avant and DeSean Jackson, the Eagles' wide-receiving corps has become a huge fan focus. As Chip Kelly's second Eagles team assembles, Jeremy Maclin is the leader, for the first time in his career, the No. 1 guy.
Will Maclin, coming off a year lost to right ACL surgery, be able to replace the long-ball dimension Jackson provided?
"I think they'll have me doing a little bit of everything. I'm looking forward to, first, getting back out there and playing football," Maclin said yesterday, as the team wrapped up the first week of official offseason workouts. "I'm not here to replace anybody.
"I think we'll be fine, man. Obviously, DeSean's one of the better playmakers in this league, but we're moving forward, and I think we'll be just fine . . . I've got faith in the guys in the locker room. Chip said it himself: The offense is not built around one guy. We have multiple guys out there who can make plays."
Maclin did not criticize Jackson, who was released by the Eagles last month and signed by the Redskins. But asked if the situation showed the importance of character, Maclin said: "It's just all about doing the right things. If you come up, show up for work, do the right things, be positive, I think it'll work out in your favor."
So, was Jackson's release a message to other players?
"I don't think you release a guy to send a message. We're not in high school anymore," Maclin said.
One interpretation, given the way Maclin noted that everyone was on hand for the workouts, and "on the same mission," is that only one person needed to hear such a message, and he's in Washington now.
Maclin did not want to discuss his relationship with Jackson; observers never got the impression they were close. "Our relationship is our relationship. It doesn't need to be shared with anybody else," he said.
While Maclin indicated support for Kelly, he also acknowledged that a team needs more than one marquee wideout threat. Until Maclin, who turns 26 next month, proves he has regained the form that allowed him to catch a franchise-record 258 passes through his first four seasons, it isn't clear the Birds have one such weapon, let alone two. For there to be a second, there's going to have to be further development from Riley Cooper, who flourished in Maclin's absence last season, or a strong contribution from a rookie drafted in a few weeks, when what has been touted as an historically deep wideout draft class comes to market.
"You want two in this league. I think when you have two, you have a much better chance of being successful," Maclin said. "I think the teams that have one guy, those teams aren't normally as good . . . I think we have two. I think we have more than two."
As great as this draft class might be, it's unusual for rookie wide receivers to dominate. Maclin was a first-round selection, 19th overall, in 2009. His 56 catches for 773 yards ranked third among NFL rookies that year. His four touchdowns ranked fifth. Those would be fine numbers for any Eagles rookie in 2014, but they wouldn't make anyone forget Jackson's 82 catches for 1,332 yards and a Pro Bowl berth last season.
"You can say anything you want about the guys coming in. But when you get to this level, it's a whole different story," Maclin said. "For those guys, I hope they do come in and make plays and be successful. But it doesn't always work like that."
Though Maclin missed last season and the ascension of Nick Foles as the starting quarterback, he worked with Foles extensively in 2012 and throughout the spring a year ago. Maclin said they won't need to search for chemistry.
"Me and Nick just threw about five or six routes out there, and we were on point. I don't think that's going to be an issue," Maclin said.
Maclin called himself "a vocal guy" and said he intends to help fill the leadership void left when Avant was released after eight Eagles seasons. Avant signed with the Panthers.