Scouts Inc.: Who will step up in Curtis' absence?

Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Jeremy Green

Wide receiver Kevin Curtis' sports hernia surgery is going to affect the Philadelphia Eagles in a big way. Any time a team loses a starting receiver, it is never a good thing, but in the Eagles' case it is even worse because they were trying to upgrade their receiving corps prior to Curtis' injury.
During the offseason they tried to acquire a No. 1 receiver to help take pressure off Curtis and WR Reggie Brown, who are better suited as No. 2 receivers. Their attempts went for naught and now their receiving corps is depleted more than ever before. As a result, Hank Baskett or Greg Lewis must step up.

This is a problem because both of these players are better suited as a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver and they will not be running familiar routes. As a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver, they are likely to run plays that get the ball into their hands quickly and allow them to make a play -- like a hook or a curl route. But a No. 2 receiver runs more outside routes like posts, corner routes and intermediate crossing plays.

Between the two receivers, Baskett has the best chance to take over Curtis' spot. Lewis is quicker, runs better routes and is more experienced, but Baskett has a lot of size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and is more physical. Plus, by having Baskett or Lewis step into Curtis' role, rookie WR DeSean Jackson can remain in the slot, where he has produced this preseason.

Defenses are going to play a lot more man coverage rather than zone coverage until the Eagles can show they can stretch the field. They will also stack the line of scrimmage more in an effort to stop RB Brian Westbrook. The Eagles are going to have to be even more creative in order to get Westbrook the ball because defenses will have a linebacker cover him, with possible safety help over the top.

The absence of a deep threat is also going to affect TE L.J. Smith because he is going to go against some combination of a linebacker with safety help over the top because the safety won't have to shade to either side of the field.

Even though the Eagles are most effective in the West Coast offense, they can't shrink the field and they must make the defense at least respect the deep ball, otherwise they will struggle.