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Young Receivers Show Bright Future for Eagles Offense

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 01: DeSean Jackson #10 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates his second quarter touchdown against the New York Giants on November 1, 2009 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

    On Monday we looked at the changing nature of the Eagles' passing game over the last six years, determining that — both because the backs are worse and the receivers are better — fewer passes are going to running backs.

    But of the passes intended for wide receivers, where are they going? That is the focus of today's post.

    Using more data from Advanced NFL Stats, I've compiled a new graph showing the pass targets as percentages going to each Eagles wide receiver since 2004.

    Eagles Wide Receivers Pass Targets 2004 to 2009

    You can draw your own conclusions and post them in the comments, but here are a few of the notes I take away:

    • Before DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, never had two rookie wide receivers become such focal points of the Eagles offense in their rookie years. Kevin Curtis actually had a larger percentage of passes thrown his way in 2007, his first year, but Curtis was a highly paid free agent signing.
    • What happened to Reggie Brown? In terms of targets, if not ability, he was DeSean Jackson before DeSean even got to Philadelphia. Perhaps it just speaks to how bad the whole wide receiver group was post-Terrell Owens.
    • Part of what could separate Jackson and Maclin from other Eagles wide receivers is their longevity as a top duo. DeSean is the first wideout in six years to be the number one target two years running. Similarly, the number two wide receiver has never been the same for more than a season. Assuming that Maclin recovers from his latest knee injury, he should fit comfortably into the second spot for years to come.
    • Jason Avant has also carved a nice niche for himself as a slot receiver. Despite the emergence of younger playmakers on the outside and and at tight end, Avant stabilized his targets at almost exactly 9.5% of total passes. He received a healthy pay bump and contract extension this offseason to continue in that role.
    • Hank Baskett, despite hanging around for a long time, has never gained even as much playing time as the immortal Greg Lewis. He seems to have plateaued as, at best, a fourth receiver. Maybe it's time to let someone else, like rookie Riley Cooper, have a chance at his roster spot.

    As we discussed on Monday, more passes have gone to wide receivers each of the last three years. I don't see this young group of talented wideouts relinquishing their hold on the offense any time soon. The Kevin Kolb era has the opportunity to be as full of elite receivers as the Donovan McNabb era was bereft of them.