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NFL Philadelphia Eagles

Previewing the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles: Backup Wide Receivers

This is the third article in a series in which I will take a look at the expected backup positions on the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles.

As fans, we know who the starters will be for almost every position next year. Michael Vick is the quarterback, LeSean McCoy is the running back, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are the wide receivers. We know all that.

What we don’t know yet as fans is who will be the backups at most positions, so this ten-part series will highlight my predictions for the non-starters on the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles. (Click here to read the backup quarterbacks and backup running backs.)

Wide Receivers:
I’m not even going to get into the first three wide receivers on the team. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Jason Avant are the top three wide receivers. There’s no way that’s going to change before the start of the 2012 season.

But the rest of the receiving corps are wide open. Here are your options: Riley Cooper, Chad Hall, Marvin McNutt, Mardy Gilyard, and Damaris Johnson.

There are a few other wide receivers on the current 90-man roster: Ronald Johnson, Elvis Akpla, Jamel Hamler, and McKay Jacobson. But they have such a small chance of making the team that I’m not even going to address them in this article.

Riley Cooper has been the Eagles’ fourth receiver for the past two seasons. He caught seven passes for 116 yards and a touchdown as a rookie, and he caught 16 passes for 315 yards and a touchdown last season.

But he really doesn’t have any special skills that set him apart as an Eagles’ receiver. For example, DeSean Jackson has his blazing speed. Maclin has speed and power. And Avant has tremendous hands. Cooper really doesn’t have anything that sets him apart from the rest of the group. He does play special teams though, but he’s at the point in his career where he should be making the team as a wide receiver and not because of his special teams ability.

Chad Hall has been the fifth receiver on the Eagles for the past two seasons. He’s a fan favorite and reminds me of the Little Engine That Could because of his never-say-die attitude. He is very short, not super fast, and not physical. But he somehow makes plays. It’s just a matter of whether he can outperform the other Eagles’ receivers in camp. Two years of experience on the team definitely helps though.

Marvin McNutt, the team’s sixth round draft pick this past season, is a big, physical wide receiver who might be the missing link in the red zone that the Eagles have desperately needed for the past few seasons. He wasn’t drafted high enough that he will automatically make the roster, but he will be given every opportunity to make the 53-man roster.

Mardy Gilyard, 25, was signed by the Eagles as a free agent following the end of the 2011 season. He was the Rams’ fourth round draft pick in 2010 but was cut after the season and didn’t play at all in 2011. He has some experience returning punts and if he made the team, it would probably be because of his special teams ability.

The final option at wide receiver is Damaris Johnson. He’s only 5’8 and weighs just 173 pounds but he is blazing fast and has been tearing it up at OTAs, according to reports. He also has a lot of experience returning kicks and punts in college. He did go undrafted though, and had some minor altercations with the law in college.

The Eagles will keep either five or six wide receivers on their roster for the 2012 season. They did keep seven at the start of the 2009 season but that didn’t last, so I will predict that they keep six. As stated earlier, Jackson, Maclin, and Avant are guarantees to make the team. I think Cooper will make it again. I think McNutt will make it. And I’m going to go with Johnson edging out Chad Hall for the final spot at wide receiver.