When he’s on the field, Jeremy Maclin plays at an elite, maybe even Pro Bowl-caliber level. Getting him on the field these days is the problem.
Maclin will miss his first game of the 2012 season Sunday as he deals with two nagging hip injuries. The fourth-year wideout has only played in all 16 games once in his NFL career, in 2010. Not surprisingly, that was his best season.
With Maclin out against Arizona, the Eagles will count on two unknowns: undrafted rookie Damaris Johnson and practice squad call-up Mardy Gilyard. If either one is nervous, they certainly aren’t saying it. Not now, not ever.
“Not nervous, I’m really excited,” said Johnson. “I always thought I could play in this league, it’s just something I got to go out and prove now and I have the reps to do it. I just got to go out and make plays.”
Johnson is expected to start opposite DeSean Jackson, with veteran Jason Avant holding down the slot. However, with Riley Cooper (collarbone) also out, Gilyard could see time as well. The Eagles will only dress four wide receivers.
“One guy goes down, another guy can step in and be successful,” said Gilyard. “We’re all good receivers, so it’s not like a slack that we got to pick up. It’s just that we got to execute and, at the end of the day, it’s all about execution.”
Johnson and Gilyard spoke like seasoned stars after Friday’s practice, never wavering in confidence or sensibility.
“It feels good to be here, just to be in the NFL,” said Johnson, who will also return punts. “To make plays, to be a part of the offense, just to be one of the key guys everyone depends on.”
“I’m excited to play, excited to go to work, you know,” Gilyard said. “To be able to just work, that’s the key thing. It’s so hard to get a job nowadays, just go in and working, the excitement is there but we just need to go to work. You can call it whatever, man, but I just want to be successful at my job.”
The man throwing them the ball expressed regret about Maclin’s absence, then wasted no time praising his new weapons.
“We’ve got guys who are playmakers, so we look forward to that,” Mike Vick said. “We’ve got a lot of weapons that will be out there on the field and they’ve got a great defense, so it’s going to be a great matchup.”
Avant shared Vick’s enthusiasm.
“We want to see Jeremy back, but we know we have capable guys and guys that are willing to go out and prepare hard, and to make the best of the opportunity.”
One man’s injury is another man’s opportunity. So goes the legend of the professional football player.