Update: We got an update on Maclin Wednesday evening. He was being tested for lymphoma, but was cleared, and had been suffering from a virus. Here is an updated post on what Maclin's return means for the Eagles and the WR situation.
As we continue to wait for an update on Jeremy Maclin's health, I wanted to take a look at his value in the Eagles' offense.
Back in February, I wrote about how Maclin's first two seasons have stacked up to his peers. Since entering the league, he's piled up 126 catches for 1,737 yards and 14 touchdowns, while averaging 13.8 yards per reception.
Among receivers who were rookies in 2009, only Percy Harvin (131) and Danny Amendola (128) have more catches than Maclin. Only Mike Wallace (2,013, 16) and Hakeem Nicks (1,842, 17) have more yards and touchdowns, respectively.
Since the start of the Super Bowl era, no receiver who started his career with the Eagles has had more touchdowns than Maclin in his first two seasons. It should be noted, however, that Mike Quick tied him with 14 and did so in just 25 games.
In 2010, Maclin led the Eagles in catches (70), touchdowns (10) and receiving first downs (45).
However you want to slice it up, Maclin has gotten off to an impressive start since the Eagles surprised many and traded up to take him with the 19th pick in the 2009 draft.
RED ZONE THREAT
Maclin's 10 touchdowns ranked tied for seventh in the NFL last season.
And he was particularly valuable in the red zone. Only six wide receivers had more red-zone catches than Maclin, who totaled 11 for 104 yards. His seven red-zone touchdowns (receiving) led the Eagles. No other Birds receiver had more than two receiving touchdowns in the red zone. And no other Eagles player had more than 44 yards receiving in the red zone.
I know everybody wanted the Eagles to add a big target this offseason, but Maclin was extremely effective in the red zone in 2010 - one of the league's best, actually.
BEATING THE BLITZ
We've discussed at length the need for Michael Vick to work on beating the blitz in 2011.
According to ESPN.com, here are Eagles receiving numbers last year on plays when the quarterback was blitzed (note: this includes the Kevin Kolb games too):
As you can see, Maclin was the Eagles' most reliable receiver against the blitz. Half of his touchdowns came when the opposing defense sent extra pressure.
As you likely know by now, I like to look at what sites like Football Outsiders have to say on topics like this.
They really liked Maclin's 2010 season, ranking him as a top-10 receiver. Maclin's catch rate (the percentage of times he made a catch when the ball was thrown in his direction) was 61 percent. You'll recall that Bill Barnwell of Grantland criticized Jackson for having a catch rate of just 49 percent in 2010.
Avant's catch rate was 68 percent, and Celek's was 53 percent.
If you're looking for speculation on what might be ailing Maclin, you are not going to find that here. His illness is obviously a sensitive topic, and when Maclin and his family are ready to address it, they will. As recently as last week, Andy Reid said they still didn't know what it was. On Monday, Maclin's brother said Jeremy was fine and an announcement would be coming shortly. Howie Roseman said yesterdan on the radio that the Eagles expect Maclin to be a part of their team this year.
As you can see from the information above, Maclin is a big part of the Eagles' offense. He's played in 33 of 34 games (including the playoffs) since entering the league. And according to Pro Football Focus, Maclin was on the field for 978 snaps last year, seventh-most among NFL receivers.
His value in many ways is based on his versatility. Above, I wrote about Maclin's ability to produce and get open in the red zone, but he is also able to make plays downfield. Maclin had a respectable 13 plays of 20+ yards in 2010 (tied for 23rd in the league).
Is he as valuable as Jackson? I don't think so. I detailed last week how good Jackson has been in his first three seasons.
But Maclin is a very good complement. In some respects, he certainly has an edge over his teammate.
If Maclin misses time, the Eagles don't have anyone to replace him. Steve Smith would help in the red zone if he's healthy. Eight of Smith's 11 career touchdowns came inside the 20.
Avant had 10 catches for 76 yards and three touchdowns in the red zone in 2009. And Celek had 10 catches for 86 yards and six touchdowns in in 2009. So, they could help too. But neither is the playmaker Maclin is.
There's no single player on the roster with Maclin's skill set. It would very much need to be several players stepping up. Keep in mind, Maclin had a team-high 116 targets a year ago. That's over seven targets a game. In other words, players like Jackson, Avant, Celek, Smith and Riley Cooper would get more looks.
If Maclin's first two years in the league are any indication, he has a bright future ahead of him, presumably alongside Jackson for years to come.
For now, though, we continue to wait for word on his health and his status in 2011.