He doesn’t play for the Eagles anymore, but Donovan McNabb has crawled back into Philadelphia headlines as of late. Rumors have swirled about him making a return after participating in workouts with the team. I can’t see that happening, but I guess you never know with the Eagles.
During his time in Philadelphia, McNabb brought the team a lot of success with the limited options he was given. The Eagles have a lot of talented receivers on the team now, but that hasn’t always been the case.
McNabb was forced to deal with subpar receivers throughout his career, and he made the best with what he was given. If he had the chance to work with the receivers on the team now while he was in his prime, he made have brought a Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia.
Let’s a look back at the top options McNabb had to catch the ball from him while in Philadelphia.
10. Jeremy Maclin
Let me preface this ranking by saying that I don’t believe every receiver in front of Maclin on this list is better than him. However, McNabb and Maclin only had one year to work together, and it was while Maclin was a rookie.
McNabb helped show everyone that Maclin was worth moving up in the draft for. An offense like the one the Eagles run is often hard to grasp for a young player, but Maclin came in and recorded 56 receptions for 773 yards and four touchdowns in his first year.
Maclin made an immediate impact for the team, and he helped McNabb record his third highest yardage total while with the Eagles.
9. Brent Celek
Celek played three seasons with McNabb and showed everyone that the Eagles made a great choice when they drafted him out of Cincinnati.
We saw Celek start to shine at the end of the 2008 season with McNabb at the helm. In 2009, the duo picked up right where they left off and Celek put up career numbers to this point. During his 2009 campaign, Celek recorded 76 receptions for 971 yards and eight touchdowns.
His numbers fell when McNabb left, but it was because the Eagles decided to use him in a different type of role. However, there’s no denying that McNabb was very confident in Celek as a receiving target and exposed the league to the potential Celek has as a pass catching tight end.
8. Jason Avant
Avant is an underrated receiver in this league. With Maclin and DeSean Jackson lining up with him, I believe he’ll continue to be an underrated receiver for the rest of his career.
Avant spent four years with McNabb, and Donovan began to show us how Avant could be considered “Mr. Reliable” for the Birds.
He wasn’t featured much as a rookie, but Avant started to come into the role-playing receiver that he is during his second season. Avant doesn’t have the flare that the other receivers do, but McNabb showed everyone how valuable Avant could be on third downs out of the slot.
Avant recorded his career high in both yardage and touchdowns in McNabb’s final season.
7. Chad Lewis
Lewis was never the flashy tight end that caught a ton of passes and really grabbed your attention. However, he was an unsung hero and a guy that I’m sure both Eagles fans and McNabb both loved.
As an Eagles fan, this is one of the players I really loved during the McNabb era. He did everything that was asked of him. Lewis was more of an all-around tight end compared to guys now that are more built on either catching or blocking.
I’ll never forget the NFC Championship win against the Falcons (and Michael Vick). Lewis had just four receptions for 20 yards, but two were for touchdowns.
Lewis’ touchdown dance on his butt against the Falcons is an Eagles memory I’ll never forget.
6. Reggie Brown
Brown never turned into the type of receiver the Eagles had hoped for when they drafted him, but he put up some decent numbers for McNabb during his time in Philadelphia.
Everyone wished Brown would have been more, but this was right in the prime of McNabb’s mediocrity of wide receivers. However, Brown averaged roughly 50 receptions, 800 yards, and six touchdowns in the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
Again, everyone hope for a lot more out of Brown. However, if the Eagles would have had some strong options to line-up with him, Brown may have had better numbers.
5. Todd Pinkston
Much like Brown, Pinkston was never a player that panned out like the Eagles hoped. However, he was a player that helped take advantage of McNabb’s big arm.
We’ll always remember how he ducked out of taking a big hit on a ball down the field, but he was one of the few players that could make a play down the field early in McNabb’s career.
Reuben Frank considered Pinkston to be one of the more underrated receivers in Eagles history because of his deep ball abilities. He will always be remembered because of how he got pushed around by corners and his tendency to use alligator arms when around contact.
However, he was one of the first players to come in and successfully display McNabb’s ability to throw the ball down field.
4. Kevin Curtis
The Eagles were looking for a go-to guy when they brought in Curtis, and he immediately connected with McNabb.
During the 2007 season, it was hard to forget the Eagles home game against the Lions for a number of reasons. The biggest reason was probably the ugly throwback jerseys were wearing that day. The second biggest reason was the score.
When it was all said and done, the Eagles pounded the Lions 56-21. One of the biggest contributors in that game was Curtis who recorded 11 receptions for 221 yards and three touchdowns.
This wasn’t just a big seasons for Curtis, it was a big year. He ended the 2007 campaign with 77 receptions for 1,110 yards and six touchdowns. This was his only full season with the Eagles, but if he could have stayed healthy, he could have gone on to repeat those numbers for a few more years.
3. DeSean Jackson
Heading into 2011, Jackson will be one of the most electrifying players in the NFL. However, McNabb helped make every team in the NFL regret passing on Jackson in his first season in the league.
In just two seasons with McNabb at the helm, Jackson recorded 62 receptions both years and collected 912 and 1,156 years respectively. Like those who attempted the feat earlier in McNabb’s career, Jackson proved to be the perfect match in showing off the quarterbacks ability to stretch the ball deep down the field.
In fact, Jackson at least doubled the amount of receiving yards any other receiver had in McNabb’s most successful year passing (2008). Who knows what would have happened if McNabb had Jackson in the beginning of his career.
2. Brian Westbrook
Is it sad that McNabb’s second best receiving option was a running back? Yes and no.
To begin, McNabb had Westbrook at his disposal for a long part of his career. Westbrook was a dual-threat running back with the Eagles, excelling in catching the ball out of the backfield.
From 2004-2007, Westbrook had at least 600 yards receiving. In 2007, he recorded 90 receptions for 771 yards and five touchdowns. When the Eagles struggled to have a receiver shine, Westbrook picked up a lot of slack.
Sure, McNabb wasn’t often slinging the ball down field Westbrook, but Westbrook made the most out of every reception he recorded.
Westbrook was a huge asset to McNabb, and will live down as one of the most productive running backs in Eagles history.
1. Terrell Owens
Love him or hate him, Owens was the best receiver ever to team up with McNabb during his era.
After years of struggling to provide McNabb with a true number one receiver, they brought in Owens and they immediately started to shine.
In his first season with the Eagles, Owens recorded 77 receptions for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns. This was also the season in which McNabb completed the highest number of passes, as well as his second highest number in yardage and highest total of passing touchdowns.
The two had a bit of a rocky relationship, but McNabb never had a better option than Owens.