Emerging: Two Philadelphia Eagles Players in 2015
By Bret Stuter
Nov 23, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews (81) is tackled by Tennessee Titans free safetyMichael Griffin
(33) during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
I: Wide Receiver Jordan Matthews
In the shuffle of the Eagles offense, we’ve become almost immune to stellar offensive play. It’s true. We’ve seen great players hit career seasons in the Chip Kelly offense: Running back LeSean McCoy, wide receivers DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, tight end Zach Ertz. But when rookie wide receiver was selected in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft, it would be foolish to think anyone could have predicted his eight touchdown, 872 yard performance would come with him. To put this in perspective, he is the eleventh leading receiver of the Philadelphia Eagles franchise in this millennium. Of the past 15 years, only ten receivers have surpassed his performance – and he was playing in his rookie year.
Typically, rookie receivers who come into the league make tremendous progress in their sophomore season. The game slows down, the formations and routes are crisper. Trust between the quarterback and the receiver is greater. With an opening of his NFL career besting so many Eagles receivers before him, it would be no great leap of faith to place his 2015 projection at the 1,200 yards and 14 touchdown mark. That’s a season that many long time veterans would aspire to achieve. But this is not something that comes easily. Matthews has stood out from the rookie class in the sheer preparation he undergoes before each game.
Matthews is not walking on water yet, however. Of his 67 pass receptions, he was targeted 105 times. That’s just 63.8% completion rate, something he needs to improve. League leading receiver, Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown, caught 129 of the 182 passes thrown his way, for better than a 70% completion rate. Chip Kelly keeps a healthy perspective of his rookie wide receiver’s mechanics:
"“So some of it is just concentration, fingertips, eyes to the catch, make sure you’re tucking it away. Little fundamental things but nothing we’re concerned about.” – Chip Kelly"
One thing the Eagles desperately need is team players at the wide receiver position. After the departure of long-time Eagles’ receiver Jason Avant, the team needed a player who was willing to credit his teammates. They found that in the Vanderbilt rookie.
"“I’ve got great talent around me and when you have great guys around you, it makes you more comfortable. I’m just able to come out and do my job. It’s definitely a good feeling when you can look around and see probably the best running back in the NFL, a great quarterback, a veteran tight end, another great tight end and two great receivers outside of you. It’s a good situation to be in and I’m just going to come out here and work as hard as I can. I don’t want to say that it’s easier because the transition to the NFL isn’t easy. People say that a lot with receivers when they come into the league. I’d definitely say it’s a blessing, though, to be able to look around and see some All-Pro guys around you. I’m just trying to take it in stride and be the best that I can be. You’ve got to be physical. There are going to be a lot of big guys in there with linebackers and safeties rolling down in the box. People say that you get to go up against some small nickels, but they won’t put anybody out there unless they were stout and they had some pretty good strength, so you have to be able to play strong and physical, and that’s what I’m trying to do.” – Jordan Matthews"
In 2015, Matthews played mainly as a slot receiver. But don’t be surprised to see him slide into wide receiver Riley Cooper’s number two role, relegating Cooper to slot receiver. The change makes sense in that it places Matthews as a target for a much greater percentage of the game. It could also resuscitate the production of Cooper, whose 2013 835 yard eight touchdown performance looks mysteriously like an anomaly now.
2015 will see the role of Jordan Matthews grow. His production will grow even faster.