It is no secret that Donovan McNabb never had a true number one wide receiver target until Terrell Owens came along, and later Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson. Andy Reid and McNabb managed to win throughout the 2000s despite the weakness and the constant marching of below average talent onto the field to start beside one of league's next quarterbacks. It didn't go without trying. Reid and the front office tried the draft and tried free agency only to continue to put mediocre at best talent with McNabb.
Fast forward to the Chip Kelly coached Eagles and you will see a nice tandem on the outside for the Philadelphia Eagles with Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson. Even throw Jordan Matthews or Jason Avant in that mix and you have a top receiving core in the league. Problem is, Chip Kelly broke it up. He dropped Jackson for nothing, and let Maclin sign elsewhere.
The Eagles currently are still sporting a nice slot receiver in Jordan Matthews, but have been going through numerous receivers to pair a duo on the outside with him. The team just signed proven All Pro Alshon Jeffrey as well as former Super Bowl Champion Torrey Smith. Hopefully this can help the team move on from the Nelson Agholor era.
As difficult it was to come up with, in this article we will look at the 7 best and 8 worst to come through Philadelphia since 2000, sometimes walking a thin line.
15 Worst - Miles Austin
Miles Austin had a very good run with the rival Dallas Cowboys from 2009-2010 when he appeared in two Pro Bowls and compiled 2,361 yards receiving. His other six years in Dallas were not so stellar and after a stint in Cleveland that was just as sub par, Chip Kelly and the Eagles decided to sign Miles Austin for the 2015 NFL season. Although he wasn't expected to return to Pro Bowl form, Austin was expected to help lead a young wide receiving corp. Instead he posted 224 yards on 13 catches. Drops were a main reason for the failure. Austin was actually targeted 31 times on those 13 catches and even went 5 games with zero receptions.
Austin failed to make it through a whole season and was released in December of 2015, following just 11 games and 1 start.
14 Best - Todd Pinkston
Yes. I know. Did I mean to put him on the "Best" side of this list? But to be honest, before Pinkston developed his alligator arms, he was one of few receivers to help Donovan McNabb prior to Terrell Owens' arrival. The Eagles took Todd Pinkston with the 36th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. After playing sparingly in his rookie year, Pinkston put up 586 yards on 42 targets in 2001, and earned himself a starting job. A year later he caught 60 balls for 798 yards which earned him a five year contract extension. The extension probably adds to the fact he could have ended up on the flip side of our list, being he was moved on from the team following the 2004 season.
13 Worst - Steve Smith
Another receiving with a small sample size, but after a successful stint with division foe, the New York Giants, Eagles fans and front office expected a bit more. In his Pro Bowl season of 2009, Smith caught 107 passes for 1220 receiving yards. After an injury filled 2010 season, the Eagles decided to give Smith a chance on the 2011 Eagles "Dream Team". Like the rest of that year, his signing did not lead to any success. Smith finished the year with just 11 receptions 124 yards and 1 touchdown, while appearing in nine games. This was luckily Smith's only season with the team and after a stay in St Louis then Tampa Bay, he retired from the NFL in 2013.
12 Best - Kevin Curtis
Again.... I had to dig deep for the latter part of this list. Curtis actually put up a monster year in with the Eagles. Curtis was signed to a six year deal in 2007. He spent the beginning of his career behind potential Hall of Fame duo Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce with some very good Rams teams. Now it was his chance to step out of that shadow and he did so in 2007. During his first season with the Eagles, Curtis put up 1110 receiving yards on 77 catches, including a 205 yard single game performance. It wasn't for lack of will or skill, that Curtis never fully made his mark on the Eagles franchise. Curtis was eventually released by the Eagles due to continued injuries throughout 2008 and 2009. Curtis had a stop in Miami before calling it a career.
11 Worst - Hank Baskett
Hank Baskett is probably more well known for his reality television career rather than his football career. Although there was that time he fumbled the onside kick in the Super Bowl as a member of the Indianapolis Colts. Maybe the fact that Baskett was undrafted should land him off of this list, but the fact that he showed flashes of brilliance with 112 yard and 177 yard receiving games which awarded him a Rookie of the Week honor, made him a little frustrating to fans. Baskett was a 6 foot 2 inch receiver but never did turn into the consistent red zone threat the Eagles throught he possibly could be. Baskett spent parts of five years in Philly, compiling 72 catches for 1052 receiving yards with 6 total touchdowns.
10 Best - Jason Avant
Avant made his stamp on the NFL and the Eagles by his reputation of becoming as sure handed as they come. Avant was drafted by the Birds in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft, and after playing sparingly in his first two season, began to find his niche as a 3rd down receiver that could also get the offense started with a quick over the middle grab. From 2009 until the himself and team parted ways in 2013, Avant snagged between 38-53 catches per year. In all he finished his Eagles career with 297 catches 3646 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. Avant was never meant to be the high end receiver that some of the bust that ended up on this list were. Instead he gave the Eagles a constant that it also has had sparingly.
9 Worst - Na Brown
Like Jason Avant, the Eagles used a fourth round draft pick on Na Brown. But unlike Jason Avant, Na Brown never found much in terms of contribution with the team. Brown played his first three and only three seasons in the NFL with the Philly franchise, where he compiled a grand total of 34 catches for 363 yards. More than half of those yards actually came in his rookie year of 199 when he had 188 yards in five starts.
Brown started 9 games in total, and found himself cut by the Eagles following the 2001 season. Brown came into each of his three training camps impressing coaches and finding a spot on the roster. At least it stopped after three years of testing him out.
8 Best - Jordan Matthews
It is interesting to see if Jordan Matthews will stay an Eagle in the future. He is currently playing out the last part of his contract. Since the departures of Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, Matthews has found himself in a go-to-guy role, which really doesn't play to his strength. Still he is the best receiver on the team as of now, mostly playing the slot. Matthews was drafted 42nd overall in the 2014 NFL draft out of Vanderbilt. He put together a solid rookie campaign of 67 receptions 872 yards and 8 touchdowns. He bettered that his second year and upped his career highs to 85 receptions and 997 receiving yards. 2016 was a mix of injuries and no receiving help on the outside to help open Matthews seems up. He finished last year with 73 receptions for 803 yards. Maybe the Eagles will get help, and we can see Matthews set new career highs. Or maybe he will be leaving Philly before we know it.
7 Worst - James Thrash
Widely known around the Philadelphia area as James "Trash", Thrash was actually an Eagle first as an undrafted free agent in 1997. He was later dropped and picked up by the Redskins. Thrash played four seasons in Washington before signing with the Eagles again in 2001. Thrash did lead the Eagles in receiving in two of his three years in green. Still that wasn't so much a testament to his play but rather the lack of skill the Eagles dealt at the position throughout this era. His three season totals were 833, 635, and 558. He compiled a total of 164 catches and 17 touchdowns. Thrash's numbers don't look quite as bad as the others on the flipside of this list, but Thrash was given the room to be a go to target. The team tried to showcase him and he responded with average to below average numbers.
6 Best - Jeremy Maclin
Alright, now we are getting to the receivers that will actually be remembered in the future. After adding DeSean Jackson in 2008, the Eagles used a first round pick in 2009 on Maclin. The team finally had a formidable outside duo to threaten opposing defenses. As a rookie, Maclin caught 56 balls for 773 yards and 4 touchdowns while also occasionally returning punts and kicks. His second year he had his first of two 10 touchdown seasons for the team and in 2014 he posted his first 1000 yard receiving season or the team when he compiled a career high 1318 yards on 85 receptions.
Like with most of the skill players he inherited, Chip Kelly let Maclin walk after the 2014 season when he signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. In all, his Eagles career consisted of 5 years, 343 receptions, 4771 receiving yards, 36 touchdowns, and a Pro Bowl appearance in 2014.
5 Worst - Reggie Brown
Reggie Brown's career can probably be compared to that of a Todd Pinkston, but there was a some hype surrounding Brown when the Eagles made him the 35th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. A bit unknowingly, Brown was thrust into starting duty for Terrell Owens in 2005. Owens was serving his suspension, and ultimately wouldn't play in Philly again. Brown looked like he had what it took to take the reigns. He finished the year leading all rookies with 571 yards and 43 receptions. His second year didn't disappoint either. Brown averaged 17.7 yards per catch en route to 816 receiving yards and a 6 year contract extension. The Eagles thought they had their next number one guy.
By 2008, Brown had fallen out of favor after an injury stint. DeSean Jackson had emerged and Jason Avant as well as Kevin Curtis were playing well. What once looked like a promising future just ended before it really got going.
4 Best - Terrell Owens
He may have only played 21 regular season games for the Eagles before being pushed out of town, but Owens sure put on a show for that season and a half. After four Pro Bowls in San Francisco, the Eagles traded with the Ravens, who had just acquired Owens, to bring Owens to the team he wanted to go to. McNabb finally had his star weapon and the two connected on the field right away. Despite playing only the first 14 weeks before being injured Owens put up 1200 yards on 77 catches to go along with 14 touchdowns. Owens would be hurt before the playoffs and despite doctors saying he would need more weeks to heal, he appeared in the Super Bowl where he was able to catch 7 balls for 122 yards despite skeptics saying he shouldn't have been involved.
We all know how his tenure ended, but Owens did put the team over the top to culminate into NFC Champions after falling short years in a row.
3 Worst - Freddie Mitchell
Mitchell was one of the team's first true attempts at bringing in a top tier receiver to help a Donovan McNabb poised for the prime of his career. The Eagles made Mitchell the 25th overall pick of the first round in the 2001 NFL Draft. "Fred Ex" may have given himself more nicknames that games he started for the year. In his rookie year, he had trouble being out Na Brown for a job, then Antonio Freeman and pushed Mitchell back, and the arrival of Terrell Owens created limited opportunities again. In his Eagles career Mitchell posted 90 receptions for 1263 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns.
Unlike most of this list, Mitchell will probably be remembered in Eagles lure for a positive reason. In the 2004 NFC Divisional playoff round, Mitchell corralled a 28 yard pass on the infamous 4th and 26 to get the Eagles in position to ultimately win the game.
2 Best - DeSean Jackson
Loved and hated for his showboating and style, regardless DeSean Jackson is the best receiver Philly has had since 2000. After being named an All American twice at the University of California, Philadelphia selected Jackson with the 49th overall pick. Despite critics being weary of his size, Jackson hit the ground running. In his rookie season DJack had 62 catches for 912 yards and three touchdowns. He would go onto eclipse 960 yards all but one season in Philly, which included a career high 1332 in 2013. As mentioned before, Jackson was released by Chip Kelly following his third Pro Bowl appearance in 2013. In all he finished his Eagles career with 356 receptions 6117 receiving yards, and 35 touchdowns. Jackson also added four returning touchdowns which included one of the more iconic plays in recent Eagles history.
1 Worst - Nelson Agholor
He may have earned this spot because he is still fresh on the mind of fans, being he is still holding a roster spot despite a disappointing first two years of his career. Already earning a bust title, the Eagles used their first round pick in 2015 on the former USC Trojan. Aside from showing flashes in his first preseason everything has trended the wrong way since. In two season Agholor has 59 catches 648 yards and a yard per catch average of 11.0. Agholor battled dropped passes his rookie season, but it was taken to a whole new level in 2016. In his rookie season, Agholor hauled in 23 out of 44 targets and in the past year 36 out of 69. Agholor has eclipsed 60 yards receiving in just two career games, and his career high sits a 64 yards on 3 receptions. It is pretty fair to say the Eagles would have already moved on from Agholor if it weren't for contract complications in cutting him. This may be the last year he gets to prove any worth.