A wide receiving corps that many already felt wasn't good enough to get the Eagles to the Super Bowl suffered a major setback when Kevin Curtis had to have surgery last week to repair a sports hernia.
Curtis, who became only the second wideout of the Andy Reid era to rack up 1,000 receiving yards last season, is expected to miss at least the first four regular-season games, and probably will be out much longer than that. A club source said the team isn't counting on having Curtis back until midseason.
Making matters worse is the fact that the Eagles' other starting wideout, Reggie Brown, is on the shelf with a hamstring injury. The team is hoping he'll be ready for the Sept. 7 season opener against St. Louis, but there's no guarantee he'll be ready to go by then.
With Curtis and Brown out, the Eagles' top four wideouts are Hank Baskett, Greg Lewis, Jason Avant and rookie DeSean Jackson. Together, Baskett, Lewis and Avant had just 52 receptions and six touchdowns last season.
Jackson has caught everyone's eye in training camp and the preseason. The 5-9, 170-pound second-round pick was expected to mainly earn his keep as the team's punt returner this season. But he's quickly developed into one of quarterback Donovan McNabb's favorite targets in the first three preseason games. Jackson has a club-high 16 catches.
Jackson started Friday night's 27-17 win over the New England Patriots and caught four passes for 67 yards, including a pair of 23-yard receptions from McNabb.
"It was a privilege to be out there with the starting group," Jackson said. "I gave all I could give out there and that's what I was hoping to go out and do."
Jackson also had a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Patriots.
If the Eagles have any doubts about the quality of their receiving corps without Curtis, they're hiding it extremely well. There's been no indication that they're looking around for pass-catching reinforcements. On the Eagles website late last week, general manager Tom Heckert said he firmly believes the team's receivers are good enough to get them to the Super Bowl.
The Eagles definitely had no problems moving the ball through the air against the Patriots. McNabb, who played the entire first half, completed 13 of 17 passes for 180 yards and one touchdown (a 7-yarder to Avant).
The Eagles are expected to compensate for the loss of Curtis by flexing out running backs Lorenzo Booker and Brian Westbrook a lot, as well as making tight end L.J. Smith a major focus of the passing game. Smith had three catches for 44 yards against the Patriots.
"I think you have to give guys opportunities to make plays and we did that," McNabb said following the New England game. "It's obviously big when you lose somebody like Kevin, who had 77 catches last year and then you don't have your other top receiver in Reggie Brown.
"But I think the preseason gives guys an opportunity to come out and showcase their talents and do great things for us. We have a ways to go, but it's a good sign."