Beginning this week, I will be writing a weekly column over at Cover32 Eagles. You can check out my first article here, which discusses the important difference in the wide receiver core for 2014. (hint, it’s NOT the difference between DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin).
You may have read Allen Rodgriguez’s recent post on Bleeding Green Nation about Jeremy Maclin. In his post, Rodgriguez builds up his case against Maclin being a good receiver, going through a list of points before ending with his conclusion: “In this process, I suppose I have figured out Jeremy Maclin’s one elite skill: tricking people into thinking he’s a really good receiver. Maclin’s production is deceptive. He lacks skills, and most inexcusable is his lack of effort. Now entering his 5th year, I fail to see anything that makes me excited about Maclin’s return. I’ll be happy to be wrong, but I’m unable to be optimistic.”
Before I get started with where I disagree with some of Rodgriguez’s points, I’ll begin with what I agree with him on. I agree with his point regarding misleading statistics, such as the “stat” that some people have been pointing to, showing that Maclin is one of five receivers to register 250 catches, 3500 yards, and 25 touchdowns before their 25th birthday. The other 4 receivers? Larry Fitzgerald, Hakeem Nicks, Randy Moss, and Isaac Bruce. When an accomplishment or “record” has so many qualifications, usually it’s stretching to make a point. For instance, if a receiver had registered 248 catches, 4000 yards, and 40 touchdowns on their 26th birthday, they wouldn’t make it onto this “exclusive” list, but does that really mean anything? I also agree that to date, Maclin hasn’t fully lived up to the expectations of a first round pick. He hasn’t had a breakout year yet, but make no bones about it– he has been a solid receiver.
After that, many of Rodgriguez’s points are crafted and defended using carefully selected stats (i.e. not including the data that would hurt his argument) and carefully selected comparisons (i.e. only comparing DeSean Jackson to Maclin in cases where it makes Jackson look better.) An example of this selective comparison is Rodriguez pointing out that Maclin had 0 catches in his first NFL game, meanwhile Jackson had a 47 yard catch on his second NFL play. But he ignores the fact that it took Jackson 77 games to finally have his first career multi touchdown game, meanwhile Maclin had a multi touchdown game in his 4th career game, and has had three more since then. Also, most of the statistics Rodgriguez references for Maclin are only from the 2012 season, ignoring the rest of his career. Using that logic, I could show that LeSean McCoy is a below average running back using only the 2012 numbers. You can read my previous post where I lay out the case for why Jeremy Maclin can be a very productive receiver in this offense.
So let’s delve further into the numbers Rodgriguez provides in his article.
In the section on Maclin’s hands, Rodgriguez states, “Maclin dropped 11.7% of catchable balls. League average of all WR was 9.7%.” This was true for the 2012 season, but why ignore 2009 to 2011?
So essentially, from 2009 to 2011, Maclin was in the middle of the pack for drop rate from the receiver position, and then had one bad year in 2012 when it came to drops. Meanwhile, Jackson had two bad years when it came to dropping the ball during that same time period (including a year where literally only two receivers were worse). Curious that Rodgriguez would choose to leave this DeSean Jackson comparison out of his piece.
Yards After Catch (YAC)
In this section, Rodgriguez states that “Maclin has been disgraceful after the catch. His yards after catch per reception was 4.2, compared to a league average for all WR of 4.5.” How can Maclin be “disgraceful” after the catch, if his yards per catch per reception is right around average? Wouldn’t it be more accurate and factual to simply state “Maclin has been average after the catch”?
To give you the full picture:
Overall, when looking at his career in totality, Maclin has been middle of the pack in terms of YAC per reception.
Rodgriguez then posts a few gifs showing some of Maclin’s negative plays. Here are some gifs of Maclin making good plays to keep this thing balanced.
Here’s Maclin showing some great effort against the Giants in the Miracle at the Meadowlands Part II. On this pass to Celek, Maclin hustles downfield to stay with his man and then de-cleats him to ensure that Celek has a clear path to the endzone.
And from later in that game, here’s “self tacklin’ Maclin” (according to Rodgriguez, via Jimmy Kempski) scoring the game tying touchdown late in the 4th quarter, putting a move on the defensive back before picking up a couple of “disgraceful” yards after the catch.
On this play from 2011 against Atlanta, Maclin catches a short crossing route over the middle, and then turns up field splitting two linebackers and diving forward to pick up a key first down on 3rd and 8.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Maclin has proven that he is a stud receiver. He hasn’t. What he has proven thus far in his NFL career is that he has been a solid starter who averages 65 catches, 863 yards, and 6-7 touchdowns per year. Plenty of Superbowl winning teams had either their #1 or #2 receiver finish the season with similar (or even worse) production (see Golden Tate- 2013, Torrey Smith- 2012, Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson and James Jones- 2010, Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem- 2009, etc.)
I’ll leave you with this. Here are a few things many of us thought we “knew” upon entering the 2013 season. We “knew” that DeSean Jackson was a one trick pony who would never get more than 65 catches in a season. We “knew” that Riley Cooper was a #4 receiver at best, and a bad #4 at that. But we all saw how playing in Chip Kelly’s offense with Nick Foles at quarterback changed things. So before we write off Jeremy Maclin as destined to never be more than average, and before we try to selectively look at certain stats of certain years to portray him as a below average receiver, can we at least give him the same fair shot that the receivers in this offense got last year? If Riley Cooper could go from being a non-factor to being an important contributor on one of the best offenses in the NFL, it’s certainly probably that Jeremy Maclin can go from being a solid receiver to a very good one.