Can Jeremy Maclin replace DeSean Jackson? The Answer is Yes

DeSean Jackson may have had some issues with teammates and coaches in the locker room, but there is no doubt that he was a very productive player on the field for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. But I have to think that the Eagles made the move of releasing Jackson with the belief that Jeremy Maclin will be able to step in and fill the void. And when we take a closer look at the numbers, maybe that’s not such a far fetched idea after all.

Jackson had a career year this year, with career highs in catches, yards, catch % (percentage of targeted passes that were caught), and equalled his career high in touchdowns. But how much of that is due to Chip Kelly’s system and having Nick Foles throw him the ball? Obviously, Jackson has a lot of talent and is a very good player. So I’m not saying that he’s just some also-ran receiver that can be replaced by anybody. But what I am saying is that you can’t look at his numbers from this year and compare it to what Maclin has done the past 3 years, because we didn’t get a chance to see what Maclin can do in this system, and there’s a good possibility that Maclin sees the same type of explosion in production that Jackson saw.

So let’s get into the numbers so I can show you what I’m talking about.

Leading up to the 2013 season, here were DeSean Jackson’s numbers:
71 games, 274 catches, 524 targets, 4785 yards, and 23 touchdowns.
On a per game basis, this comes out to: 3.9 catches, 7.4 targets, 67.4 yards, 0.3 touchdowns.
Extrapolated to a 16 game season, this comes out to: 62 catches, 118 targets, 1078 yards, and 5 touchdowns.
Note that leading into the 2013 season, DeSean had only caught 52.3% of the passes thrown his way, and that his career high in a single season came in 2011 when he caught 55.8% of the passes thrown his way.
Now, here are Maclin’s career numbers:
59 games, 258 catches, 426 targets, 3453 yards, 26 touchdowns.
On a per game basis this comes out to: 4.4 catches, 7.2 targets, 58.5 yards, .44 touchdowns.
Extrapolated to 16 games that comes out to: 70 catches, 115 targets, 936 yards, and 7 touchdowns. Note that Maclin’s catch % for his career is 60.5%. So leading into the 2013 season, Maclin actually averaged more catches and touchdowns per year while catching a higher % of passes thrown his way, while Jackson averaged more yards.

Now here were Jackson’s numbers for 2013: 82 catches, 126 targets, 1332 yards, and 9 touchdowns. Compared with his career averages, that’s a 32% increase in catches, a 24% increase in yards, and an 80% increase in touchdowns. And in 2013 he caught 65% of the passes thrown his way, that’s nearly 13 percentage points above his career average entering this season, and 10 percentage points above his previous highest single season mark.

Earlier in this post I mentioned Nick Foles. The reason I did that is because without Nick Foles, DeSean Jackson was on pace to have another year where he caught less than 60% of his targeted passes. Here is the breakdown of complete stats for DeSean Jackson from each quarterback this past year:
Michael Vick: 25 catches out of 44 targets (57%), 463 yards (18.5 yards per catch and 10.5 yards per target), and 2 touchdowns (1 touchdown per 12.5 catches 22 targets).
Matt Barkley: 7 catches out of 12 targets (58%), 61 yards (8.7 yards per catch and 5.1 yards per target), 0 touchdowns.
Nick Foles: 50 catches out of 70 targets (71.4%), 808 yards (16.2 yards per catch and 11.5 yards per target), and 7 touchdowns (1 touchdown per 7.1 catches and 10 targets).

So it’s clear that with Nick Foles throwing him the ball, Jackson became a much more efficient receiver, hauling in 71% of the passes thrown his way, which was the highest mark of ANY wide receiver in the NFL this past year.

If Jeremy Maclin sees just HALF the increase in production that DeSean Jackson saw last year, his numbers for 2014 will look like this: 81 catches, 1048 yards, and 10 touchdowns. If he ends up seeing the same increase in production, his numbers will look like this: 92 catches, 1160 yards, 13 touchdowns.

So is it really that far outside of the realm of possibility that Maclin puts up numbers somewhere in the range of the 2 sets of values I just posted? Considering what playing in this system did for DeSean Jackson, I don’t think so.

“But Larry, Jeremy Maclin put up those numbers in Reid’s system while playing next to DeSean Jackson, he won’t have that luxury this year” That’s something I’ve heard from many people when I tell them that I think Maclin will have a career year just like Jackson had last year, and it is certainly a valid point. Now, it’s a small sample size but remember that at the end of 2012, DeSean Jackson was out with an injury for the final 5 games of the season. So we saw then the same scenario we are going to see this year, with Foles as the quarterback and Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper as his starting receivers.
Here were Maclin’s numbers over those 5 games;
28 catches, 353 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Over a 16 game season that would come out to 90 catches, 1130 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Now like I said, it’s a small sample size so I’m not saying that he would have produced those exact numbers in 2012 had he been the primary receiver and Jackson not have played. I’m just using that extrapolation to show that those numbers over a period of 5 games is solid production.

So there you have it. That is my case for saying that Jeremy Maclin will step up this year and have a career year in this system and will replace the void left by the departure of DeSean Jackson.