The initial remarks were supposedly a joke. But they were bizarre. The explanation of the initial remarks was also bizarre. It’s all very strange.
“That was not a very smart thing for Coop to say,” Jeremy Maclin allowed on Tuesday.
Maclin was referring to Riley Cooper’s comments on Monday. Cooper made what appeared to be a joke about Jeremy Maclin’s financial situation having something to do with Maclin playing far more snaps than Cooper. He said Maclin is “trying to get a contract” and added that Maclin probably wouldn’t want to “come out of the game” as a result. Again, he seemed to be kidding. Maybe. But then he continued.
"We want to sub as much as we can. It doesn't matter who it is," Cooper told Philly.com and other media. "Hopefully, Maclin gets this thing done and he'll probably be subbing just as much. We want guys out there every four plays. We were trying to rotate every four plays. I'll be in for four or five depending on if we're going tempo. Six, seven plays and then [Josh] Huff goes in for two and then I go back in."
Cooper has played the second-most snaps of any receiver this season behind Maclin. But Cooper played more than 90 percent of the team’s reps in the first five games. In the last six games that number dipped to 76 percent. Against the Titans on Sunday, Cooper was on the field for just 67 percent of the offensive plays. That’s a downward trend that made people notice and ask Cooper. That in turn led to Cooper’s remarks, the ones Maclin called “not very smart.”
On Tuesday, Cooper was asked if he wanted to clarify his comments. He said he was joking and “obviously kidding.” Cooper said the only reason he regrets it is because “y’all have made it into such a big deal.” Then he made another strange remark.
“I’m supposed to sub every four or five plays, and that’s what I do,” Cooper replied. “Maclin, I guess, he’s a lot better player than me, so he doesn’t have to sub.”
It seemed like he was kidding again. Maybe. Who knows? But, as the saying goes, a lot of true feelings are revealed in jest. And as Maclin pointed out, none of the comments were smart things to say.
But forget about the contract quip or the implication that Maclin doesn’t want to come out. Let’s deal with facts. The facts are that Cooper hasn’t played as much lately. So why is that?
In a predictable reply, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said there’s “nothing there.” He said it twice for emphasis. Shurmur said the Eagles have done a good job subbing their receivers and that they want to make sure all the active players get into the game.
A week ago, Jordan Matthews played 61 snaps. That’s three more than Cooper. Huff got 29 snaps. Brad Smith was even on the field for seven plays. The last two, ostensibly, cut into some of Cooper’s playing time. As for Matthews, the arrow on his play is pointed upward while Cooper’s arrow is flipped in the other direction.
Cooper had a career year last season, catching 47 passes for 835 yards and eight touchdowns. In the offseason, he signed a five-year, $22.5 million contract. This year hasn’t gone nearly as well. Cooper has 39 catches on 69 targets. He’s third on the team in both of those categories. He has 425 receiving yards, which puts him fourth. He has just one touchdown. Four other pass catchers have more.
By comparison, Maclin leads the team in catches (63), targets (109), yards (980) and touchdowns (nine). Matthews is second in those categories with 50 receptions on 79 targets for 635 yards and six touchdowns.
Shurmur insisted that Cooper — who said he likes to block and has contributed in that facet — has been a “steady presence” for the Eagles and that he “makes plays” when he gets opportunities. Shurmur also said that the Eagles are comfortable with the number of snaps Maclin has gotten relative to Cooper and everyone else. Maclin played 77 of 87 snaps a week ago. This season, he’s played 727 of the 835 snaps. That works out to 87 percent. Among all offensive players, only Jason Peters (96 percent) has been on the field for more snaps.
Asked whether he’s talked to Maclin about what he said, Cooper shook his head.
“I haven’t talked to him yet,” Cooper said. “No.”
Then he sort of half chuckled and walked off.
-- John Gonzalez, CSNPhilly.com