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Eagles evaluate Cooper as starter without WR Maclin

The SportsXchange

PHILADELPHIA -- Jeremy Maclin has never been to a Pro Bowl and never has had a 1,000-yard receiving season. But he's been one of the league's more consistent wide receivers the last four years, averaging 65 receptions, 863 yards and seven touchdowns a season for the Philadelphia Eagles.

He figured to be a big part of coach Chip Kelly's offense this season, but that all ended Saturday when he tore his ACL on the just the second day of the Eagles' full-squad training camp practices.

With Maclin out, an offense that already looked like it was going to be tight end- and running back-centric, almost certainly will be that now.

"We have a lot of faith in our skill-position people as a whole," general manager Howie Roseman said. "That's kind of how we look at it. We're not just looking at the wide receiver group. We look at the running backs. We look at the tight ends.

"Those are the guys we have high hopes and expectations for. That's what camp is for - competition. And that's why we brought in people to compete."

Roseman said the Eagles aren't actively looking outside the organization for a replacement for Maclin, and will give players on their roster, including fourth-year man Riley Cooper and second-year man Damaris Johnson, an opportunity to replace Maclin.

Kelly is confident Cooper will do a good job in Maclin's place.

"Our evaluation of Riley is not 'all of a sudden Mac is not here so let's start looking at what Riley has been doing,'" the head coach said. "I've been watching Riley since I got here in January.

"He's a big physical player. I think one of the attributes he has is that his size is a weapon for him. He catches the ball really well. He's an outstanding blocker. He's a real technician in terms of what he wants to get done.

"It's an opportunity for him to kind of step up in a more expanded role. It's not like he wasn't going to have a big role in our offense anyway."

In March, the Eagles acquired talented but injury-prone wide receiver Arrelious Benn from the Tampa Bay Bucs in a trade. But Benn injured his knee the day before Maclin went down. It's not certain how long Benn will be out.

Cooper will get first crack at Maclin's job. He started five games late last season after DeSean Jackson got hurt and played well. The 6-4, 230-pounder is a big target with dependable hands who had three red-zone touchdown catches last season to go with a career-high 23 receptions. Cooper also is the team's best blocking wideout, which is a nice asset to have in an offense that is expected to run the ball a lot this season.

"This is my fourth year," said Cooper, a 2010 fifth-round pick out of the University of Florida. "I started five games. I just want to pick up where I left off last year. I felt like I had my best year yet. I've just got to keep it going. But I feel pretty comfortable, I really do."

Kelly is expected to lean heavily on his tight ends in the passing game. He already had Brent Celek and Clay Harbor, and signed James Casey in free agency and selected Zach Ertz in the second round of the draft.

The Eagles are going to use a lot of two- and three-tight end sets this season, and could keep four tight ends on the roster.
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