Philadelphia Eagles: Where Should Jordan Matthews Play?


Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews will begin training camp as the Eagles number one receiver. Despite this, we don’t really know where Jordan Matthews will play next year. Will he strictly stay in the slot like last year or will he play outside too? Matthews will probably lead the Eagles in receiving yards and touchdowns even if he stays in the slot but I believe he has the talent to play outside as well.

Rather than predict where Jordan Matthews will play and how Chip Kelly will use him, I will try and decide where I think he should play.

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To help me decide, I will use the fantastic work that

Matt Harmon

has done for his website

Backyard Banter

and for

Football Guys

called the Reception Perception. Matt has done an incredible job working out how often wide receivers got open against the defender covering him. Matt tracks how often a receiver runs a route against man coverage, zone coverage, double coverage and press coverage and then works out their success rate. This is an extremely useful tool when discussing where Matthews should play as when you are on the outside you have to be able to beat man and press coverage consistently.

Below is how successful Matthews was at getting open according to Matt’s work:

Looking at the table, it essentially confirms to me what I thought about Matthews. He isn’t great against man coverage, his 59% success rate puts him below the NFL average. However, he is well above the NFL average against zone coverage. He is significantly above the NFL average against press coverage which shows that given more time on the outside he could become a good outside receiver. Here is what Matt had to say about Jordan Matthews and where he believes he should play:

"Jordan Matthews against zone and press coverage – One of the more hotly debated players of the 2014 class. Jordan Matthews’ fans will point to his workout numbers and outstanding college production to assert that he carries the profile of a future number-one, split-end receiver. The unconvinced will say those numbers do not show up on tape, and that he is simply a big slot receiver. Truth be told, Reception Perception shines light on the reality that the answer is somewhere in the middle. Matthews 77.8% SRVC against zone is quite impressive. He’s able to feel out coverage well, and is an intelligent, studious player. Matthews does his best work sifting through the traffic in the middle of the field, and that is why Chip Kelly identified the big slot receiver role as a natural one for him. On the other hand, he scored incredibly well against press coverage with an 85.7% success rate on 14 attempts. While his 59.8% SRVC against man is underwhelming, his press coverage score indicates he can likely function on the outside as well. It will bear watching just how much Kelly choose to use him there. Should he choose to leave Matthews inside that is not an insult, because as Reception Perception quantifies, he is incredibly proficient in that role."

So looking at the film and the data, where should Jordan Matthews play next year? I believe the phrase ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ comes to mind when thinking about Matthews. Matthews looked so good in the slot last year, why would you change that? Matthews ability to get open against zone coverage as Matt said by sifting through traffic in the middle of the field means that ideally he should stay in the slot as this takes advantage of his unique skill set. So in three wide receiver sets, I think Matthews should stay in the slot.

However, does that mean in two wide receiver sets Matthews should be on the sideline whilst receivers like Josh Huff and Riley Cooper play out wide? No way. Matthews should be a slot receiver in three wide receiver sets but in two wide receiver sets he has more than enough talent to move out wide. Even if he still needs to improve his ability to beat man coverage, he should still be better than the other options. Hopefully during training camp Matthews will play out wide and in the slot, he has the work ethic to learn both positions.

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