In some great news, Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin, who had an undiagnosed illness, might be able to practice within 7-10 days, Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder said on Aug. 17, according to the club's website. If there are no setbacks, the team expects him to be ready to go for Week One.
In the offseason Maclin had symptoms associated with lymphoma. After a battery of tests, ending with a laparoscopy that came back negative, he's good to go.
In an interview with FoxSports.com, Maclin said he's healthy and ready to go. I love his mental toughness to return to form and don't view that as an issue. Whether he's in football shape or not is the real question. He reportedly lost as much as 15 pounds early in the offseason. I assume he's gained some weight back, because he told FoxSports.com he was working out, running routes, gaining weight and felt fine. Also, Burkholder said Maclin was close to his listed weight of 198 pounds on Aug. 17, according to the Eagles' website. Either way, it just shows how far he may have to go to return to form.
If all goes to form, this time next week Maclin will begin practicing. He's coming into camp late, out of football shape and has to secure his starting position. Don't make too much drama out of it. Outside of former Giants star and Pro Bowler Steve Smith, no one has the overall talent or skills to overtake him as a starter this year.
DeSean Jackson is the team's No. 1 wideout, but even he just reported to camp a few days ago. Although he's looked outstanding, he also has to get into game shape. Jackson is a true No. 1 fantasy wideout to start the season, but I do wonder with all the wideouts, including TE Brent Celek, are there enough footballs to go around? Once everyone is healthy, I would drop Jackson to No. 2 fantasy wideout status with No. 1 upside and possible fantasy blockbuster trade bait down the road.
Jason Avant is an overachiever with a huge heart and because of that, to me, he's a role model. However, despite great hands, running good routes and making some highlight-reel catches, his talent has a ceiling, and he's more of slot receiver. He has looked great in camp as well. It won't be surprising to see him on the field more than normal to start of the season, at least until Jackson, Maclin and Steve Smith are 100 percent healthy and in game shape.
Smith could threaten Maclin's playing time. However, he's on the PUP list. He's a ways off to threaten for playing time but will come out fighting as he only has a one-year contract, so he's playing for his future. He's a great draft-and-stash in larger leagues or waiver-wire material a few weeks into the season.
Look for Riley Cooper to see extra time on the field. Before the return of Jackson and Maclin, the team was giving a lot of reps to Avant and Cooper. In fact, some believe the team has great confidence in both Cooper and Avant by not pursuing former Giants wideout Plaxico Burress. Cooper (6-3, 222) is a big wideout that will pay dividends on a team that lacks size at the position. He's ready to contribute in his second season, but not start.
Former Giant Sinorice Moss may have to focus on special teams just to make the club. The positive news: the oft-injured younger brother of Santana Moss told The Philadelphia Inquirer in August that he's finally 100 percent and still has his explosiveness. He's a player with some upside, but not this year. Johnnie Lee Higgins will focus on returns, and Chad Hall may not even make the roster.
When you look at all this, a little common sense needs to be realized. I'm not listing Steve Smith because he's on the PUP, on a new team and out-of-football shape.
WR 1:1— DeSean Jackson is not in game shape now but should be ready to go by Week One without issue.
WR 1:2 — Jason Avant will see more playing time early on as Jackson and Maclin work themselves back into shape. However, his primary role is as a slot receiver where he's best suited and where the team wants to keep him. However, they can use him on the outside and he will see more time on the field in the beginning of the season. View Avant as merely a No. 3 fantasy wideout early in the season and after Maclin and Smith are 100 percent, he's not worth a roster spot outside of larger leagues.
WR 1:3 — Sinorice Moss has to hope he can adjust to returning kicks to make sure he secures a roster spot. Not draftable.
WR 2:1 — Jeremy Maclin is not in game shape and a week behind Jackson in practice time. I see Maclin starting but sharing time the first few weeks of the season before beginning to see most of the reps at one of the starting spots.
WR 2:2 — Riley Cooper will see an increase in playing time until the team is confident Maclin is 100 percent. I see Cooper seeing extra plays in the first few weeks but after that, he's probably not worth keeping.
Maclin and Smith: Overall I view Maclin as no better than a No. 3 fantasy starter. I like Smith once he's off the PUP list and gets healthy. As stated earlier, I don't think there will be enough footballs to go around, which is why I would keep Maclin's value to a weak No. 3, flex-position, bye-week or injury fill-in. That's how much I like Smith. Despite my love for Smith, he's in the same boat as Maclin and no better than a No. 3 fantasy wideout.
It's a crowded receiving corps, so odds are, outside of Jackson, I wait to see if Maclin drops in drafts before grabbing him, as he'll be overvalued, and in deeper leagues I grab-and-stash Smith. Avant will get drafted but he's a late-rounder to me. Cooper is a wait-and-see proposition to me, and that makes him a waiver-wire pick-up.