Injuries have ravaged the Philadelphia Eagles, especially at the wide receiver position, and young players will be counted on to step up in the absence of proven veterans like Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn, who were expected to be counted on this season before both were lost for the season to torn ACLs.
One player who has shined in training camp is undrafted free agent Russell Shepard. He has shown great athletic ability, explosion in and out of his cuts, and solid hands, especially for a first-year player green to the league. He has also stood out with his work ethic. Every day after practice he goes to the JUGS machine and works on hand catching the football with fellow receiver Jason Avant, who happens to have the best hands on the team.
Avant is a great mentor for the young Shepard, who was a five-star college recruit at the quarterback position but is raw as a receiver. Shepard has shown why almost every college was knocking at his door. He has been getting great separation and has been a favorite target of one of his childhood idols, quarterback Michael Vick. Vick singled him out as a player who needs to step up and replace Maclin and Benn, and it sounds like he is impressed with the young rookie.
The receiver position looks like a concern right now for the Eagles. Having to rely on young players is never ideal, but if Shepard continues his development along with second-year player Damaris Johnson and the rest of the receiving corps, the Eagles should be able to withstand these rough succession of injuries, and the adversity could be a rallying cry for this offense in 2013.