Thursday, December 18, 2014

Naturally, young Eagles fit right in

Missing camp time didn´t hurt Jeremy Maclin.
Missing camp time didn't hurt Jeremy Maclin. YONG KIM / Staff photographer

Tight end Brent Celek turns 24 on Nov. 25. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson will celebrate his 23rd birthday on Dec. 1. Fellow wideout Jeremy Maclin turned 21 in May. Another rookie, running back LeSean McCoy, reached the legal drinking age 2 months later.

The Eagles have scored 15 touchdowns this season. Those four have accounted for eight of them. They were supposed to represent the future. So much for waiting their collective turns.

"Our young [skill players] . . . are all in it together," noted offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. "They're all natural football players, and that's really important. And they're pretty sharp. You combine those two things and they have a chance to help you early. You put some competition in there like that, it's all good for our football team and for them as individuals."

That would include Kevin Kolb, who looked like an NFL quarterback when Donovan McNabb missed two games with a fractured rib. He's 25.

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  • "We do have depth at many positions," Mornhinweg went on. "Some are young and they've stepped up and played, really, at a high level. And we didn't expect anything less. They've worked hard. They got their preparation done the right way, so now we have to keep that going. We have that certain mentality that the next man steps up."

    Last season, Jackson got his shot somewhat earlier than anticipated when Kevin Curtis suffered a sports hernia. The same thing happened to McCoy this year, when Brian Westbrook was sidelined by an ankle injury. Maclin is getting more time because Curtis has a sore knee. Last week against visiting Tampa Bay he became the first Eagles rookie to have two TD catches of 40 yards or more in a game.

    Celek, in his first full season as a starter, is among the leaders at his position in receptions and yardage.

    You may recall that on draft day, the Birds passed on tight end Brandon Pettigrew for Maclin, whose stock - for whatever reason - had fallen. So maybe sometimes they really do have a clue.

    Maclin, of course, missed the first week of training camp while he worked out his contract.

    "It wasn't the end of the world," Maclin said. "There are worse situations out there, with guys coming in a little late. The biggest thing I missed were the repetitions with McNabb and the guys. But as for learning the offense, especially when you get into the season, there's only so many plays that you have to know for games.

    "It's about growing up, moving to the next level. You do it going from high school to college, and now from college to the pros. We have to be men now. Guys have wives and families. I'm a youngster. I don't have any of that yet. But it's still time to mature, not only on the football field but in life as well."

    Mornhinweg was impressed by the way Maclin made up for the lost time, which at the time did seem like a huge deal.

    "You just can't get those practices back," he said. "You saw [wide receivers coach] David Culley . . . [working with him] before and after virtually every practice there for a long spell. So all of that paid off just a little bit. David did a heck of a job that way with him. Then, the player has to put in the hard work and the film work and the study time in. You have to do it the right way, too. There is a certain way to do it. He did a heck of a job that way."

    And now, the possibilities are starting to expand, at least a tad sooner than many envisioned.

    "I just think we have a lot of different guys who we can go to," Maclin said. "Days like [Tampa Bay] are going to rotate from receiver to receiver, running back to running back. I hope people don't look at that as a bad thing. For me, it was mainly a confidence-booster. You never arrive. You're always fighting.

    "The credit goes to the coaches. They found the guys they wanted for their system, guys that could adapt and make plays. They got a lot of young talent, and a lot of veteran guys kind of leading us. We're buying into what they're preaching, what they have us doing. And everybody else is doing their job. There's only one ball. So many different guys are going to get it."

    Secure in the knowledge that they're evolving as one.

    "Everything happens for a reason," Maclin said. "I expected to go a lot higher [than 19th in the draft], but I'm glad it happened like this for me. It's exciting. The limit to this offense? I mean, there is none. It's the sky.

    "There's a lot more season to play, a lot more growing up to do. Hopefully, we can do even more down the road. That's the kind of career I hope to have. You've got to be ready to make something happen when the ball does come your way.

    "We're staying in the present. We know we have ability to go around. That's what will make us all successful. The more the merrier."

    Provided you're carrying the proper ID.

     

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