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Can Rookie WR Damaris Johnson Revitalize the Philadelphia Eagles Offense?

Howard Smith-US Presswire

With starting WR Jeremy Maclin sidelined last week with a hip injury, rookie WR Damaris Johnson seemed to be the one and only bright spot in the Philadelphia Eagles’ passing game.

Of course that isn’t really saying much, considering the Eagles’ air attack was absolutely dreadful in Week 3 against the Arizona Cardinals, with QB Michael Vick completing just 17 of 37 passes for 217 yards and a big ole goose egg in the touchdowns column.

Surprisingly, Vick did not throw any interceptions in the contest, but did manage to lose two fumbles just to make sure he reached his apparent turnover quota.

The rookie Johnson  did impress in his first NFL start, recording a team-high 5 catches for 84 yards.

This trumped the production of number one wide-out DeSean Jackson (three catches, 43 yards) as well as TE Brent Celek (two catches, 36 yards), who are both usually prime focal points of Vick’s attack.

It is common for a player to freeze in the spotlight when he trots out on to the gridiron for his big debut, but Johnson seemed unaffected. With Maclin out, the rookie knew that the unforgiving fans in Philly  would be watching his every move, waiting to pounce on any mistake.

The real test for Johnson will be how effective he can be when he takes the field the next time alongside Maclin and Jackson. With opposing defenses primarily focused on defending the top two receiving threats, the seams down the field could very easily open up for Johnson.

Many wide receivers have been known to break out in this same manner. Green Bay Packers WR Jordy Nelson originally thrived when opposing defenders focused on fellow receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, leaving Nelson open for countless targets.

A situation incredibly similar to Johnson’s is former Dallas Cowboys WR Laurent Robinson‘s breakout season just last year. He saw his first success with teammate WR Miles Austin injured, but then continued to thrive when Austin returned, and defenses shifted their focus back to Austin and the Cowboys’ other starting wide receiver, Dez Bryant.

If Johnson is able to get open down field for Vick and rack up significant yardage, he could truly be the key to bringing this Eagles offense back to the ferocious juggernaut they were thought to be.

I believe that the rookie’s success in Week 3 is just what he needed to boost his confidence and have him start to seem himself as a legitimate threat on the field.

I also look for Vick to continue to target Johnson, being that he now has trust in the young wide-out and the two can begin to develop a rhythm. Considering Johnson accounted for almost 40 percent of Vick’s passing yards last Sunday, it shows that the QB is not afraid to throw the ball in his direction.

With Maclin expected back on Sunday night when the Eagles take on their bitter division rival, the New York Giants, Johnson will have his first chance to prove that he can still produce as the number three receiver on the field.

The pressure will be on for Johnson with all of the nation tuned in on Sunday night.

I look for the rook to have a breakout performance against this Giants’ secondary and show all of Philadelphia that there’s a new stud in town.


Please follow me on Twitter @JoeD_Rant for all Eagles/NFL insight.