Rookie receiver Jordan Matthews wasn’t at practice when the media got to watch last week, but he was there on Monday and the reviews were positive.
— We got our first glimpse of rookie Jordan Matthews and he looked good … running around in shorts. OK, so it’s way too early to judge the second round receiver, but Matthews didn’t look overmatched by any means. He ran with the second team offense in the slot behind Brad Smith. Matthews kept running after nearly every catch, all the way to the end zone, even though the plays technically end without contact. It’s nice to see that kind of effort from a rookie. Matthews, who missed last Thursday to attend a rookie symposium in Los Angeles, spent about an extra 15 minutes working with quarterback Mark Sanchez after practice. I’ll have more on Matthews and his chances of winning the slot receiver spot in a column for tomorrow’s paper. – Jeff McLane
• Jordan Matthews practices his ass off. After his reps he sprints back to the sidelines. It almost reminds me of when the 49ers’ Aldon Smith used to sprint back to his seat on the bench after a series ending sack. – Jimmy Bama
Jimmy always finds interesting perspective.
Monday offered the media its first opportunity to watch rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews in action after he was selected by the Eagles in the second round of the NFL Draft. Matthews worked exclusively out of the slot with the second-team offense. On the last second-team rep during an 11-on-11 drill, Matthews caught a pop pass from quarterback Mark Sanchez and raced down the middle of the field for the touchdown. In fact, he ran every catch to the end zone. Matthews also was part of the crowd of players who fielded punts which included, in no particular order, Darren Sproles, Riley Cooper and Damaris Johnson. – PE.com
The Eagles need help on STs so it is good to see Matthews getting some work as a RS.
• Jordan Matthews also spent some time as the slot receiver, which is where Chip Kelly suggested the Eagles would use him shortly Matthews was drafted. Matthews is very fun to watch. When he catches a pass, he typically runs 10 yards or more down the field after the play is over just because he likes to finish the play hard. Then he sprints back to the huddle for the next rep. His hustle and work ethic is something that Eagles fans should appreciate. – Brandon Lee Gowton
* * * * *
There is no doubt that Matthews will do everything in his power to succeed, but effort isn’t enough in the NFL. Luckily, Matthews has size, skill and athleticism to go with his work ethic. He will be counted on a lot as a rookie and his future is wide open. He could be the primary slot receiver. He could win a starting job and produce good numbers right away. Or Matthews could be slow to adjust and get lost in the shuffle with Josh Huff, Brad Smith and Arrelious Been.
I don’t think the NFL will overwhelm Matthews. I get the feeling he’s one of those guys will make his presence felt pretty quickly.
* * * * *
The Eagles also have a chance to get more production out of the position. Avant caught only 31 of 62 targeted passes for 404 yards out of the slot in 2013. The year before, he pulled in 51 of 67 targeted throws for 598 yards.
DeSean Jackson ran the second-most routes (144) out of the slot and had 28 catches for 373 yards from that spot in 2013. Tight end Zach Ertz (15 catches for 178 yards) can pick up some of the slack, as can Jeremy Maclin (27 catches for 385 yards out of the slot in 2012), but coach Chip Kelly has been touting Matthews’ skill set as ideal for playing inside.
“You’ve got to be physical,” the 6-foot-3, 212-pound Matthews said after Monday’s practice. “There’s going to be a lot of big guys in there.”
Matthews caught more than a handful of passes over the middle from second-string quarterback Mark Sanchez on Monday. He hustled to the sideline each time his unit took a rest.
“Since middle school, I’ve done that,” said Matthews, who stayed after practice to catch more passes from Sanchez. “It’s not like something I decided to do on a whim. It’s who I am.”
Avant was a good slot receiver for the Eagles. Matthews has a chance to be much better. He won’t be as dynamic of a route-runner, but Matthews will be infinitely more dangerous with the ball in his hands. That should increase the number of big plays the Eagles get from the slot position.
Avant had 2 career catches that went for 40 or more yards. He could get you 10, even 20 yards. But Avant wasn’t going to deliver the truly big plays. He was just too slow.