2013 In Review: Top 5 Disappointments in Philadelphia Sports

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4. Jeremy Maclin Tears ACL Before Playing a Snap

Two seasons removed from a health scare that transcended football, Jeremy Maclin appeared poised for a breakout season. The former first round pick out of Missouri had wrapped up a season as one of the few slivers of hope during the Eagles dismal 2012 campaign. He had led the team in receptions (69), yards (857), and receiving touchdowns (7). Entering a contract year in 2013, many figured the Eagles would be more than happy to reward the amicable Maclin with a fitting deal for the second half of a dynamic receiving tandem alongside DeSean Jackson.

The hiring of Chip Kelly seemed to fit Maclin’s style to a tee. Kelly’s quick-strike, high-tempo offense that took advantage of short passing and open receivers was reminiscent of Gary Pinkel’s Missouri offense that saw Maclin dominate on the NCAA level. While the former top pick had excelled under Andy Reid, many felt Maclin could take things to a new level with Kelly scheming things up to take advantage of his multi-talented game. Rather than signing a contract extension during the offseason, Maclin decided to gamble that he would outperform his career to that point and earn a hefty payday. Unfortunately, Maclin would not get one opportunity to prove his worth to his new head coach on the field.

In a non-contact practice towards the end of July, while the team geared up to enter the brunt of preseason training camp, one would think very little of even covering an event. However, on that Saturday practice, the Eagles and Kelly would be dealt the first of multiple swift blows that would test the resilience of the organization. It is hard not to forget almost thinking the barrage of tweets regarding the incident was as a result of beat reporters having nothing to talk about up to that point. Little did the Twitterverse know that this would, to this day, be the most substantial injury news involved with the Eagles in 2013 and there was zero contact on the play.

During a series of 7-on-7 drills, Maclin was lined up with the first team offense. After apparently taking a few quick steps off the line, the receiver crumpled to the ground in a heap. Michael Vick, who was playing with the ones at the time, probably said it best when asked by the Inquirer’s Jeff McLane.

"“Usually when a guy falls like that there’s something to be worried about”"

He would have to be carted off the field and, shortly thereafter, the team confirmed their worst fear. Jeremy Maclin, without taking a single snap, would be out for the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL. He would be placed on injured reserve and, a little more than two years after many wondered if a mysterious illness would end his football career for good, the former first rounder would have another hurdle to clear in the form of extensive rehabilitation to his surgically repaired knee.

Maclin, one of the truly good people on the team, was as professional as always but even he could not hide the emotions of such a harsh blow.

Riley Cooper would fill in for Maclin in the 2nd receiver slot and, well the rest of his roller-coaster year is a different story altogether. Many wondered just how the Eagles would perform without their most consistent pass-catching offense as well as one of the more visible presences in the locker room. On a roster undergoing dramatic turnover, losing a constant like Maclin would put the team’s cohesiveness to the test right away.

The Maclin injury hits on multiple levels. First, while the Eagles offense has been as dynamic as any in team history, there is still the narrative every week of, ‘just imagine if Jeremy Maclin were here’. During Nick Foles’ stretch of games in 2012, Maclin had emerged as a favorite target of the then-rookie quarterback. One cannot help but think he would have brought even another element of danger to what looks like the premiere offense in the NFC.

Football aside, this injury was a reminder that there are no fairytales in football. Maclin was as good a person to ever represent the city of Philadelphia as an athlete. He had done everything and more asked of him as a first round pick, and appeared poised to reap the benefits from a statistical and financial standpoint. Now, one cannot help but wonder if Maclin’s last snap as an Eagle was in a 42-7 blowout loss to the Giants in New Jersey, ending one of the more misery-riddled seasons in team history.

Honestly, it is tough to say whether bringing Maclin back is a good idea or not. If the two sides can agree on a suitable price, or perhaps the team use the franchise tag on Maclin, it could not hurt to give him a chance to prove his worth and earn an extension. That being said, the nature of knee injuries as well as the emergence of Riley Cooper as a playmaking option might bring into question Maclin’s role on the team. It is possible that Chip Kelly would want to bring in a young receiver in the draft without the question marks that Maclin brings to the table. It is tough to imagine Maclin playing for a different team so soon after being a first round draft pick. All that aside, this organization is going about their business differently than before and time will only tell if they decide to bring Maclin back into the fold.