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Maclin ready to escape Jackson's shadow

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Posted Aug. 04, 2011 @ 4:09 p.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

For months, we have said that this season might be Jeremy Maclin's to break out. Considering the Eagles' wide receiver had 10 TD catches a season ago and was such a red-zone factor (seven scores inside the 20-yard line) and that DeSean Jackson sometimes is prone to hot and cold stretches (as well as mood swings and bouts of immaturity), it would not be a reach that in his third season that Maclin could put it all together and approach the 1,200-yard mark.

Sit back and remember that he is 23 years old. Think also that Michael Vick, as great as he was last season, had only about 11 games' worth of action and Vick's offensive coordinator — Marty Mornhinweg — believes can reach Steve Young-like levels of production. The Eagles' focus this season will be on better pass protection and better red-zone execution, and Maclin, who is expected to be fine after missing the start of camp because of an undisclosed illness, really could benefit from both.

Most teams choose to single-cover him, worried more about the home-run ability of Jackson. You still have to respect the run game with LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown, and TE Brent Celek is one year removed from a 76-catch season. Add a plug-and-play right guard from the draft (Danny Watkins) and one of the best OL coaches (Howard Mudd) in the past 25 years, and you have a great surrounding situation.

Maclin increased his receptions from 56 to 70 in Year Two, and I easily could forecast another 14-catch bump in Year Three to 84 catches. His yardage went up proportionally in his second season, and I think that Maclin's yards per catch will go up from 13.8, his average each of his first two seasons. At 15 yards per grab or more, Maclin would surpass 1,170 yards with that many receptions.

After Vick came back from a concussion and regained the starting job in Week Nine, he really started leaning on Maclin more than he did early in the season, and in crucial times of games, too. Expect that to continue.

In fact, I'll say it: Maclin will be a bigger fantasy producer — by a healthy margin — than Jackson this season.

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