Strong case for Maclin

Posted: August 26, 2014

IT'S GOING to happen every time Jeremy Maclin takes an awkward stride, suffers a hard hit or has his body contorted at a strange angle.

Eagles fans are going to hold their collective breath and likely not exhale until Maclin is back on his feet and participating in the next play.

That's how much the Eagles have banked on Maclin not just returning to form but actually being a better receiver than before he suffered the ACL tear to his right knee that cost him the entire 2013 season.

That's how it is when a key player returns from a serious injury. People hope for the best but are programmed to expect the worst.

But in some ways, Maclin's knee momentarily locking up and causing him to crumple to the turf during the second quarter of the Eagles' preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was a good thing.

Football is not a contact sport but a collision one. At some point during a 16-game schedule, Maclin is going to suffer bumps and bruises - some minor, some more serious.

He needs to know that he can deal with them and get back out on the field and perform.

Maclin went back into the game Thursday and participated in practices Saturday and Sunday.

"I had the little thing that happened in the game and obviously, I had a flashback," Maclin said, "but I try not to think about [the injury].

"I've come a long way. It's been over a year now. I knew if I was good enough to go back in, I was going back in the game. [Saturday] I felt good. [Sunday] I felt really good. Everything is coming together."

While he would offer a different assessment, Maclin knows he is getting a stigma of being a player who has trouble staying on the field.

Maclin has missed time in training camp with leg soreness and a strained hamstring. When you add that to recovering from a major injury, it is not surprising that confidence in his health is a constant issue.

"You tell me," Maclin said when asked when people will stop cringing every time he takes a hard hit or appears to tweak something.

"I missed last season off of a fluke injury, but I think prior to that, I think I missed four, five games my entire career. So you tell me."

Considering the violent nature of the NFL, concerns about Maclin being brittle seem unwarranted.

He started 13 games as a rookie in 2009 and played in 15. In 2010, he made 16 starts. Maclin started 13 games in 2011 and 15 in 2012 before spending 2013 on the injured reserve list.

Much of the concern about Maclin is that while he has had a solid career, he has yet to have the breakout career many expected when he was drafted 19th overall in 2009 out of Missouri.

Despite being one of just eight receivers in NFL history to have at least 55 receptions and 750 receiving yards in each of his first four seasons, Maclin has been in the shadow of former Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, who was infamously released without the Birds receiving any compensation.

Whether fair or not, Maclin's return is supposed to compensate for Jackson's departure. Maclin's upcoming season will be judged in comparison to Jackson's, who is now plying his trade in Washington.

The truth is they are two different styles of receiver. Jackson is the home-run hitter who can go deep on every play. Maclin offers more consistency but in a less spectacular fashion.

"I've never talked about stats," Maclin said when asked what he would consider a good season. "It is what it is. I'm going out there to play football and help my team win."

Of course, considering Maclin is on a 1-year contract, a big statistical season should help the Eagles win and increase his negotiating position.

"Yeah, that is true," he agreed, "but at the same time if I am going to be a big part of this offense, like I think I am, those things will come.

"I'm here to do the best for my team and create the best situation for myself."

Maclin is a strange case. He is the only current Eagles wideout with at least 100 career catches, but because of his injury Maclin was not part of quarterback Nick Foles' breakthrough campaign.

Quarterback and receiver need to develop chemistry and timing, which makes it even more critical for Maclin to stay on the playing field.

"It's not starting over," Maclin said his on-field relationship with Foles. "You use what you have done in the past and just build on it.

"I think we have gotten on the same page. It's growing every day and trusting each other."


Blog: ph.ly/DNL

Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

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