Eagles Still Searching for the Answer to Their Receiver Situation

(Philadelphia, Pa) — So you want a receiver Philly fans to finally fill the void or is it a ravine that has existed since the departure of — The initials that we dare not say —  T.O.   Sure we can all hear Andy Reid’s 9-year common retort –uh, uh, [Throat Clear], “We are okay with our receivers”.  Coach we all know you are trying to protect your group of handpicked pass catchers, but 16 receiving touchdowns from your entire receiving corps when players like Randy Moss (23) and Braylon Edwards (16) were in their neighborhood or down the block all by themselves is an indicator that an impact player is needed.

Kevin Curtis was scrappy with numbers of 77 catches for 1110 yards, 14.4 yards per catch, and 6 TDs.  But when you take away his 11 catches, 221 yards,  21 ypc, 3 touchdown performance against the putrid Lions secondary in week three, you are left with some average numbers especially the 3 touchdowns the rest of the way — he did have two additional scores off fumble recoveries which proves he has nose for the ball.  NFL personnel guys that I have talked to have continually said that the Eagles have a good nucleus, but no that scares you other than Westbrook on offense especially their receivers.

I believe that for all of his “We are fine there talk”, Andy Reid understands that an upgrade is needed at the position going into 2008 season.  When free agency beckoned in late February, Birds fans had visions of Donovan McNabb throwing to a variety of too good to be true front line receivers.

— Chad Johnson (Proved to not be as unhappy as everyone thought.  Maybe getting great fantasy football numbers receiving from Carson Palmer and getting all of the attention from his antics in Cincinnati is what he really likes)

— Randy Moss (The Birds’ brass was oh too happy to tell their fan base that they made a “run” at the game’s second most enigmatic receiver offering him more than the Patriots on paper, but even coach Reid knew he was going back to Tom Terrific)

— Bernard Berrian (Thankfully the Eagles decided to let the Vikings (Philly Midwest) sign him to the tune of six-years, $42 million dollars.  Which I thought was too much for a guy that has never had a 1,000 yard season)

— Donte Stallworth (The Patriots 3rd receiver was worth seven-year, $35 million contract, with $10 million guaranteed and $17 million in the first four years to the Browns.  May have been the best fit since “he knows the system” and loves to go deep, but the Birds were not about to give that to a guy who had spent a large amount of his time in Philly in the whirlpool)

— Larry Fitzgerald (Though people were constantly telling me that Fitz was coming here after a conversation that BIGPLAY Football had with him last week in Cleveland at the EAS show, I knew he wanted to stay in Arizona.  Sure enough he signed a crazy fat restructured deal of 4 years, $40 Million with $30 Million in guarantees).

You can also throw in lower level guys Jerry Porter (now with Jaguars), Javon Walker (now with Raiders), Patrick Crayton (Re-signed with the Cowboys), Devrey Henderson (Re-signed by the Saints) and others that were also not part of the Birds plans.

However as of mid March there have been many rumors and attempts with little to show for it other than the Eagles gaining “brownie points” with stepford fans for trying.   But the plan facts are Eagles fans are probably still looking at the same receiver group going into the draft.  Sure there are non-descript free agents like Bryant Johnson (rumored to be on the Bucs radar), Keary Colbert, and DJ Hackett left.  But you can almost book it that other than a blockbuster deal that falls in their lap (i.e. Roy Williams) that the draft is the Birds next move at the wide receiver position.

So with the Birds armed with probably 12 or more selections and Lito Sheppard they will have some options going into April, but if you are expecting the Rams to just hand over perennial Pro Bowl receiver Torry Holt for Sheppard and 5th rounder you have eaten one too many cheesesteaks with “wacky whiz”.   There still maybe a play or two out there.  I am hearing rumblings that Jags WR Matt Jones an intriguing former college quarterback that Eagles were high prior to the 2005 draft maybe available.  The Jags have brought in Troy Williamson and Porter and the 24-year old Jones’ mouth and lack of production (only 24  catches in ’07) have made for a very rocky relationship with head coach Jack Del Rio.  I still believe the Eagles will be looking to the draft first for their guy.

This year’s draft class at the receiver position is nice, but there are too many 2nd round choice types that don’t deserving of the Eagles #19 overall pick – You also don’t have to be a genius to know an offensive or defensive lineman will be their first choice.  So look for a solid player that can maybe contribute on special teams, but if you are looking for a Vikings Randy Moss 1998 rookie season (over 1,300 yards and 17 TDs) wake up.

With any rookie receiver patience is a virtual as it usually take three years for these future prima donnas to develop and we all know the Eagles track record for playing rookies, so break out the redshirt.  Also remember it took until the playoffs for Giants receiver Steve Smith to finally get it and where was San Diego Chargers first round selection Craig “Buster” Davis all of last year (20 rec, 188 yds w/ 1 TD).

Some draft options include:

DeSean Jackson, California –    Junior Eligible speedy return man (4.32), who needs to be more consistent catching the ball.  At 6-0,  178 pounds reminds me a little of Carolina tough guy Steve Smith when he came out of Utah. His return ability would be a huge plus for the field position starved Eagles. 

James Hardy,   Indiana  – Huge junior target at 6-6,  220 pounds that could be a great fit in the redzone.  Has Plaxico Burress size and tenacity with adequate speed (4.59)

Malcolm Kelly, Oklahoma – Another big junior (6-4,  218) with average speed.  Will need to prove that he is tougher than he appeared at the combine where he begged off drills due to a quad tweak.

Early Doucet, LSU – A big play receiver that could fit well in the Eagles system.  He can play inside or outside at 6-0,  211 pounds running in the high 4.4’s.  Shined at the Senior Bowl catching the ball better than any of the other targets in Mobile.  To me he could be better than last year’s Chiefs sensation and former LSU teammate Dwayne Bowe.

Devin Thomas, Michigan State – Was undoubtedly the star receiver at the combine showing that he has the size (6-2,  215), Hands (caught ball with hands in drills and I didn’t see a drop), and speed (4.4) to make an impact.  Great second round value player.

Others to keep an eye on are Florida’s  Andre Caldwell, Kevin Kolb’s former Houston teammate Donnie Avery, Virginia Tech’s Eddie Royal (4.39 returnman speed demon), Kansas State rangy wideout Jordy Nelson (reminds me of Ed McCaffrey at 6-3,  215,  4.5’s) and this year’s Wes Welker — Texas Tech receiver Danny Amendola (5’11, 180 with great hands out of the slot).

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