BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Andy Reid said today that he had no immediate plans to acquire a wide receiver after Riley Cooper fractured his collarbone on Saturday. But that didn’t stop a segment of Eagles fans that want the Eagles to sign Plaxico Burress from voicing their desire to me and other reporters on Twitter and elsewhere.
It’s understandable. Many Birds fans look at the 6-foot-5 Burress and see a big target that the team has sorely lacked over the years and one that could help them in the red zone. They see Burress and remember the receiver that often used to have his way against the Eagles secondary as a member of the New York Giants.
But that Burress – now 34 -- is long gone. After his two-year hiatus away from the NFL, Burress joined the New York Jets last season. He was fairly productive, catching 45 passes for 612 yards and eight touchdowns.
But there’s a reason why he’s still out on the street, and it doesn’t have much to do with his checkered past. NFL scouts saw a receiver that was either spent by the end of last season or didn’t give a full effort as the Jets’ playoffs chances went up in smoke. Burress caught only eight passes for 100 yards and one score (against the Eagles) in the final four games of the season.
"He takes too long to get off the line," said an AFC scout. "And even when he gets going there is no straightaway speed."
To be fair, Burress may have run out of gas because he still didn’t have his legs under him after being released from prison only months earlier. But there were also reports out of New York that it was Burress who had gotten in the ear of receiver Santonio Holmes, who had probably the worst season of his career and who had become a major distraction on and off the field.
Burress has said on numerous occasions that he wants to play for the Eagles and with his childhood friend Michael Vick. He said it again on Saturday during an interview with 97.5 The Fanatic. He said that Andy Reid and he had spoken recently about the possibility.
Reid, though, had said as recently as the spring that Burress wasn’t in the Eagles’ cards. Times change, of course, and now the Eagles are without their fourth receiver and their biggest target in the 6-foot-3 Cooper.
Cooper’s importance isn’t necessarily his use in four-receiver sets. The Eagles rarely go four wide. Cooper, who spent all of last season as fourth on the depth chart, is important because of what he brings to the Eagles’ special teams and his readiness should DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin miss time. Cooper started three games last season and caught 13 passes for 240 yards and a game-winning red zone touchdown against the Giants. Those are pretty good numbers. He did have a few drops in those games including one that fell into the hands of a Seahawks defender for an interception.
On special teams, Cooper played on both cover and return units. The Eagles rank their special teams players by compiling their tackles, blocks and other such plays, and Cooper was fourth last season among non-kickers and place holders, behind Colt Anderson, Akeem Jordan and Owen Schmitt.
Burress has not played much special teams in the NFL, if at all.
Cooper will have surgery on his collarbone and will be out for approximately six weeks, Reid said. The season starts in exactly six weeks. Reid said Cooper being ready for the Sept. 9 opener at Cleveland will be a close call. If he is not, the Eagles have six weeks to get his replacement ready. Rookie Marvin McNutt, a sixth round draft pick, would be the obvious replacement based on his size (6-foot-3). But he never played special teams at Iowa and he projects as more as a slot receiver than flanker.
There are a handful of other receivers in camp and Reid said that he wants to use this time to see if they can perform. Bringing Burress or another veteran in that this point would take snaps away from those guys. (And remember, this is a fourth receiver we're talking about.) If Cooper’s recovery takes longer than projected, and if McNutt or some of the other options in camp don’t impress Eagles coaches, than perhaps Reid may add a veteran like Braylon Edwards (who recently worked out for the Dolphins) or Mike Williams.
Or maybe Burress, although I don’t see it.