Is Maclin's latest setback a cause for concern?
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - You could hear Jeremy Maclin's frustration.
In the midst of his two best practices of training camp, often with one of the NFL's best cornerbacks covering him, the Eagles wide receiver pulled up lame Wednesday, after snaring a 50-yard touchdown pass from Nick Foles.
Chip Kelly's music has been muted for scrimmages against the Patriots, so when Maclin walked to the sideline and yelled a few choice words to himself, they carried 50 yards to where reporters were stationed.
"I wanted to go out there and compete," Maclin said afterward, "and I just knew that once that happened I was going to shut it down for the rest of the day."
It's been a herky-jerky few weeks for Maclin. Every time he has made progress in his return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, he has had to take a step back. Maclin insists it's just part of the process, but with so much riding on his health, there's anxiety each time he suffers a setback.
In the spring, he fell to the turf and, after a few sweaty-palm moments as he clutched his knee, he rose without harm. Last week, he was a limited participant because of "soreness" in his legs.
And then on Wednesday, Maclin said he felt his left hamstring "grab."
"It shouldn't be a big deal," he said. "Go back, treat it, and come back tomorrow."
The Eagles and Patriots have a joint walk-through practice scheduled for Thursday. They will meet on Friday night at Gillette Stadium for the second preseason game. Maclin said he was hoping to play.
He has been icing his surgically repaired right knee after practices and had it wrapped again Wednesday. It's likely a precautionary move. ACL injuries don't typically take a year to recover from - as they once did - but Maclin is two weeks past a year since the injury.
"I just think that once you get to that year mark, everything starts clicking again," said Maclin, who first tore his right ACL as a freshman in college. "I've always felt good. I feel really good now."
In the first two weeks of camp, he didn't look as explosive as he did in the 2012 season, when he caught 69 balls for 857 yards and seven touchdowns. Even with Riley Cooper sidelined with a foot injury, Maclin wasn't Nick Foles' go-to receiver in those workouts.
"For Mac, it's just a matter of getting more comfortable getting out there," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said before practice. "You can tell he's running around and doing those things, but you're not instantly, 'Hey, I got it back to where I was before.'
"It's still getting more familiar, a little bit more comfortable with what we're doing. Even though he was in the building every day he was rehabbing, he wasn't on the field or working with us from a scheme standpoint."
Maclin played three series against the Bears in the preseason opener and caught one pass for 15 yards. As he walked to his locker after the game, running back LeSean McCoy joked about the island the receiver would be on next week, as in "Revis Island," named for Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Maclin kidded that he doesn't go to islands, but he was deferential to Revis, calling him one of the best cornerbacks of all time. Nevertheless, it was a challenge issued by McCoy, and Maclin seemed up to it Tuesday.
He beat Revis during one-on-one drills, drew three holding penalties, and pulled in a long touchdown pass over the cornerback during the scrimmage. Revis was obviously going at less than 100 percent, but Maclin didn't seem to care.
On Wednesday, he slipped past Revis on a post route into the end zone, and before he turned, he looked up to Philadelphia reporters situated 20 yards away, as if to say, "You guys catch that?" There has been debate about his ability to be a No. 1 receiver, but he looked the part against the Patriots.
The passing offense hasn't appeared the same without Cooper and whenever Maclin has rested. The Eagles have weapons at other positions, but there is a drop-off at receiver. Ifeanyi Momah, Arrelious Benn, and Jeff Maehl have mostly split repetitions in Maclin's and Cooper's spots on the outside.
Brad Smith has been the starting slot receiver, but rookie Jordan Matthews could be only weeks away from supplanting him.
But for a team that let DeSean Jackson walk away, having the starters at less than 100 percent is not ideal.
"Certainly, you'd like to be able to play as many reps as you can with all the guys you're going to be playing with," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "Unfortunately, this time of year, there's a lot of skill players that deal with some soft-tissue issues and missing practice. So there's a lot of time left."
The clock is ticking.