PHILADELPHIA – When Jeremy Maclin tore a knee ligament in training camp last year, he vowed to play even better when he returned.
Maclin had an outstanding first half for the Philadelphia Eagles, leading the team with 45 catches, 790 yards receiving, and eight touchdowns. He's a big reason why the Eagles (6-2) lead the NFC East, and he's on his way to cashing in after turning down a multiyear contract for a one-year deal.
"I just did what was best for my situation, me and my family," Maclin said. "That was what was right with the ability to make something happen during the season. When the time comes, it will take care of itself. Most important thing is to play and keep helping my team win."
Maclin has filled in nicely as the No. 1 receiver after three-time Pro Bowl wideout DeSean Jackson was abruptly released following his best season. He already has three touchdowns of more than 50 yards, tying Jackson for most in the NFL this year.
Maclin has 18 receptions for 345 yards and four touchdowns in the past two games. He's the first Eagles player and the 13th player in league history to have at least 150 yards and two TDs in consecutive games.
"Obviously, he's got outstanding speed and he's got really good hands," coach Chip Kelly said. "He's done an unbelievable job this season of making great catches on the sideline for us. He's got a real toughness to him. He's a complete receiver because he's not a selective participant when it comes to the run game. He's been a real physical blocker for us on the edge."
Kelly's effusive praise of Maclin doesn't stop there.
"He's a really good route runner, so I think it's not just a speed component that makes him a good receiver," Kelly said. "He's got a want-to in terms of wanting to go get the ball and being that type of guy that when you call his number, he's going to go get it."
A first-round pick in 2009, Maclin has never had a 1,000-yard season. His most productive season was his second year when he had 70 catches, 964 yards and 10 TDs. At this rate, he'll surpass those numbers in a couple weeks.
"It's just about going out there and playing football," Maclin said. "Chip does a good job putting guys in space, helping them be successful and using their skill set. Then it's up to us and our ability to make plays. Everything works together. Obviously, you need the right scheme, but you need the players to plug into that scheme."
Kelly and the coaching staff were excited to have Maclin play in their up-tempo offense in 2013, but he went down on the second day of training camp. Maclin heard the pop in his right knee before he hit the ground and knew right away it was serious. He suffered the same injury at Missouri four years before the Eagles drafted him and understood the long road to recovery.
"When I went down, the one thing I told myself was to come back and give myself a chance, to be better than what I was," Maclin said. "This year, I have had my number called quite a bit and all I can do is be reliable for my team."
Kelly isn't surprised to see Maclin's success.
"I just think that's what I expected," Kelly said. "That's the Jeremy Maclin I saw before the injury, and the big thing for me is that's the Jeremy Maclin I saw here every day rehabbing. I knew he was going to be successful. I saw how he attacked his rehabilitation in terms of getting ready and getting back. That's why it was very important for us to sign him in this offseason and make sure that he stayed here and was a part of it. It's just a credit to him in terms of his determination."
Maclin was on the opposite end of a 52-yard pass from Mark Sanchez on the first play after Nick Foles broke his collarbone last week at Houston. He wasn't the deep threat in the offense when Jackson played here, but he's doing the job well.
Maclin has a chance to post big numbers again when the Eagles host the Panthers (3-5-1) on Monday night. Carolina's secondary has struggled this year, allowing 17 TD passes.
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