Eagles injuries create opportunities at wide receiver

Posted: August 08, 2010

No athlete would ever acknowledge being grateful for an opportunity to shine at the expense of a teammate, but injuries that sidelined Eagles wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin did create opportunities for the backup wideouts who hope to make the Birds' roster.

"Those are our two star players, so we're just hoping they get healthy so they could get back on the field and make plays for us. That's what we're wishing for," said first-year wide receiver Chad Hall. "But in training camp, it's just extra reps for everyone else to get better. That's what we're doing and we're taking advantage of them.

"The more plays you run, the more balls you catch - it just helps your confidence."

Aside from playing wide receiver, Hall shares something else with rookie Riley Cooper and veterans Hank Baskett and Kelley Washington - they all play on special teams. And as coaches mull roster decisions, players realize their future may hinge on being able to fill dual roles.

Right now, nothing is certain except that Jackson, Maclin, and Jason Avant have defined roles with the Eagles. So through the end of training camp and into the preseason, the backups will continue to battle for recognition.

"The wide receiver corps, that's a competitive deal," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "Obviously, you can't keep all of them, so they're making it tough on us and that's a good thing."

Added Baskett: "The more competition you have, the better your game's going to be because you play to your competition. If you feel like you get complacent, that brings your level down. But if you have to push yourself every day, it's only going to improve your game."

Baskett is in his second stint with the organization, and that makes the five-year NFL veteran a known quantity. He has been used as a tight end and can block well. His 6-foot-4 frame gives him an advantage.

The other veteran receiver, Washington, can provide a boost with big plays and pumping up a crowd.

"It's a great opportunity to help the team with some younger receivers, add some veteran leadership," said Washington, who is in his eighth season after playing with New England, Cincinnati, and Baltimore. "Just do whatever the team needs to win. I feel I could be a valuable asset to the team."

Cooper, 22, brings youth, and his frame (6-foot-3, 222 pounds) and physicality are among his upsides. At Florida, he made good catches and he's continued that in training camp, as well as displaying his speed.

"The thing Riley needs to do is just continue to learn the offense," Reid said. "He's made a lot of big plays, but just so he gets all the formations down and all the different looks that the defense is throwing at you and the adjustments you have to make. He's working hard at that. He's got a great attitude, and he's made some plays."

So far, Cooper has shown an ability to remain focused during training camp.

"I'm not really worried about the whole wide receiver battle or things like that," he said. "That's all going to fall into place. You just got to go out and [be yourself], and if you're good enough you'll make it. I'm confident in my abilities, and I just got to go out and do my thing."

Reid is eager to see the wide receivers in action when the Eagles play their first preseason game against Jacksonville at home on Friday.

"We're getting to that point now, you're in those dog days of two-a-days . . . the light at the end of the tunnel was a week from yesterday with a game," the coach said. "I think they're all battling through these next couple of days here so they can have an opportunity there, and I think as coaches, we look forward to seeing how they play in the game."

Contact staff writer Mario Aguirre at 215-854-4550 or maguirre@phillynews.com.

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