Tag Archives: DeSean Jackson

South Philly Forty: Eagles Purge Continues with the Release of Evan Mathis

12 Jun
Two-time Pro Bowl offensive guard Evan Mathis is free to negotiate with other teams after he was released by the Eagles.

Two-time Pro Bowl offensive guard Evan Mathis is free to negotiate with other teams after he was released by the Eagles.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—Just when you thought the drama at NovaCare had kind of subsided just a wee bit, the Eagles head coach Chip Kelly made another eye-raising move on Thursday by giving the heave-ho to two-time Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis.

While the team hasn’t made an official announcement just yet, Mathis himself made the announcement on Twitter: “Thanks for the memories Philly.”

I guess the first thing that should jump out at you in the midst of Kelly’s purge of the team’s best veteran players is that being outspoken or even looking like you’re a critic of this regime will get you fired. Since assuming command of the team’s football operations, Kelly has made it clear that while a player maybe good, no one is above being kicked to the curb.

You can’t say that move was about race or any of his moves including the trade of running back LeSean McCoy. Kelly has made it emphatically clear that this is his team, ride or die.

The Eagles have become the real-life version of the 1970s football movie, “North Dallas 40.” Kelly, who makes all the personnel decisions, has become B.A. Strothers, the demanding coach played by G.D Spradling, who likened a football team to a well-oiled machine. In one scene the coach in the film if one of those gears from that machine flies off on its own, he would pull it.

Kelly has definitely done that when anyone dared to be a critic of his football ideology. McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Cary Williams have all been shown the door in one way or the other.   The latest casualty of Kelly’s totalitarian rule is their malcontent Pro Bowl offensive lineman.

Mathis did not show up for the team’s “voluntary” organized team activities mainly because he dared to not be happy with his contract. He wanted more money and he wanted it guaranteed. The Eagles response to Mathis was stay home and don’t ya come back no more.

What makes this move even more painful for Mathis was that he was scheduled to make $5.5 million and $6 million next season. Despite his accomplishments on the field for the last couple years, some observers around the league are saying that it is highly doubtful that’s he going to make that kind of money at 33-years-old—he turns 34 in November.

Throughout the offseason, the Eagles had been looking to trade Mathis, but could find no takers. Given Kelly’s penchant for putting the kybosh on guys who don’t buy into the system, general managers around the league figured why give up a draft choice or a player to be named later when you can sign him as a free agent, possibly at a cheaper price.

The irony of this was that Mathis bought into Kelly’s holistic approach to the football which involves proper diet and nutrition along with getting plenty of sleep. I guess in Kelly’s mind Mathis wanting more money is a violation of a team that he wants to carve into his own image.

And so even with the departure of former head coach Andy Reid and former team president Joe Banner, the Birds are still the Logan’s Run of pro football where turning 30-something can be hazardous to your job security no matter how good you were the past couple of seasons.

Somewhere in the state of Ohio, Banner is smiling at Kelly’s handiwork.

Meanwhile, Allen Barbre, Matt Tobin and Andrew Gardner will be vying to replace Matthew. My caveat to Kelly is that if you’re going to cut guys they have to be better than the guy being let go.

Running back DeMarco Murray had better have the kind of season to make fans say, LeSean who? Quarterback Sam Bradford needs to stay healthy and be productive enough to make people forget Nick Foles. The Eagles defense with its young defensive backs needs to stop people.

In other words, the end-result of all the offseason moves had better translate into a division title and a run deep into the playoffs. If it doesn’t, Kelly will find out in no uncertain terms that he, too, is expendable as the players he’s cut or traded.

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Eagles Fans: Curb Your Enthusiasm and Your Pessimism, It’s Not as Good or Bad As You Think

24 Apr
Newest Eagles quarterback Tim Tebow is hoping to catch on as a starter with the Birds.

Newest Eagles quarterback Tim Tebow is hoping to catch on as a starter with the Birds.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—The early reviews of Chip Kelly’s offseason moves have sparked two very distinct reactions from fans.

If you listen to an old high school chum of mine who is also a diehard Eagles fan, the moves that Kelly has made, moves that include trading running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills, letting wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson go due to free agency and just plain hubris, and trading Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams for an injury-prone Sam Bradford, mark the beginning of the Birds apocalypse..

My friend expects the Eagles to be winless by the halfway point of the season and for Kelly to be unceremoniously ridden out of town on a rail. Until then, he’s done with the team.

Then you have those Eagles fans that my Significant Other equates to fans of Tyler Perry movies; fans so willing to trust anyone in Eagles Green that they’ll cheer any move they make, even if it’s one that the management of her crazy, but beloved, Oakland Raiders wouldn’t.

After all, the Birds signed the NFL’s leading rusher, former Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, to a lucrative free agent deal. The Eagles have also acquired former San Diego Chargers running Ryan Matthews and former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell to help the team’s struggling pass defense.

Another move that turned heads this week was the signing of quarterback Tim Tebow, a move that rankles Kelly’s detractors and is seen by his supporters as proof of his willingness to think outside the box.

But here are some things to think about as you debate the Eagles offseason moves.

Murray, the man replacing McCoy, is not chopped liver. He almost single-handedly took a Dallas Cowboys team with a mediocre defense to the playoffs in 2014 and running style seems to fit what Kelly wants in a back, someone who’s going to power through the hole and not dance around as McCoy sometimes did..

Matthews will be a solid backup to keep the Birds from overusing Murray. At 6-foot, 220 pounds, he has no fear of contact and will hit the hole quickly. He gained 1,255 yards rushing and scored six touchdowns with the San Diego Chargers in 2013.

And don’t forget about Darren Sproles, who can still run as a speedy change of pace back that can catch passes on third down situations.

And if you’re thinking that Maxwell was simply riding on the coat tails of Richard Sherman, his superstar counterpart in Seattle, consider this: according to the website, Pro Football Focus.com, a website that keeps track of virtually every play of every NFL play, Maxwell held opposing quarterbacks to an average quarterback rating of 78.5.

And because teams didn’t want to throw in Sherman’s direction, Maxwell was the fourth most targeted corner in the league.

That said, don’t get too excited or start picking your hotel room in San Jose, the site for Super Bowl 50 just yet. This team is a long way from being a finished product.

The Eagles still need a safety that can cover and knock the living snot out of a ball carrier or a receiver unfortunate enough to catch a pass in his presence. The team also needs to increase its depth in the secondary. Maxwell may be a part of the solution, but the problem is still there.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Eagles need to fill the rather large holes left by Maclin and Jackson at wide receiver. Let’s be honest here, Riley Cooper and Jordan Matthews are scaring no one.

But the real mystery is at quarterback. With the current crew, there’s no one that gives you any real long or short term hope.

First, you have Sam Bradford, the quarterback that the Eagles got from the Rams and who hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2012.

You also have Mark Sanchez, who literally threw the Eagles out of the playoffs last season.

And then there’s Tebow, a quarterback with a rating so low that it would appear he’s done nothing but throw to Byron Maxwell his entire career.

On one hand, bringing Tebow in to run the read-option makes sense because he ran a similar offense in college. The Eagles have run the read-option 514 times over the last two years more than any other team. Tebow is more mobile than Bradford and backup quarterback Mark Sanchez. He has 989 career rushing yards.

But if you’re going to be a quarterback in the NFL, it might be a good idea if you knew how to pass.

Tebow has completed just 47 percent of his passes. While there are some football observers who say that since Kelly’s offense is geared to the run and shorter passes a QB with a big arm isn’t necessary, defenses get wise to that after a while.

With the draft on the horizon, I still wouldn’t put it past Kelly to come up with some crazy scheme to get Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or draft a mobile quarterback, possibly UCLA’s Brett Hundley. But like most of his offseason moves, no one knows what’s coming.

So while Philadelphia Eagles fans shouldn’t head to the Walt Whitman or Ben Franklin Bridges to take that final leap, they also shouldn’t bet the mortgage and car payment on a trip to Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium in February, either.

 

 

 

 

Eagles Season on the Brink After Beating Themselves in Loss to Washington

21 Dec

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Mark Sanchez passed for 370 yards and two touchdowns, but tossed an interception that set up the game-winning field goal for Washington.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Mark Sanchez passed for 370 yards and two touchdowns, but tossed an interception that set up the game-winning field goal for Washington. Photo by Webster Riddick.

LANDOVER, Md.—It’s official. The Philadelphia Eagles season is officially on life support thanks to what only can be described as a bad loss to a Washington team that is going nowhere fast.

Kai Forbath’s 26-yard field goal with five seconds left put the Birds postseason hopes in dire straits and they’re going to need a lot of help and lots of luck.

If the Dallas Cowboys beat the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, the Eagles will be officially eliminated from the playoffs. They were officially eliminated from wild card consideration and can only win the NFC East to get to the postseason.

Dallas would have to lose their last two games and the Eagles would have to beat the New York Giants next week.

Three weeks ago, the Eagles were in the playoff driver’s seat and now they’ve lost three straight.

Given how the Birds 27-24 loss to Washington turned out, you could say that the Eagles don’t deserve to be in the playoffs. Teams that make the postseason don’t make the kinds of mistakes the Birds made Saturday night—Two turnovers, two missed field goals and 13 penalties.

“You’re not going to win football game that way,” said Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. “We left them on the field too many on third down when we got penalties to extend drives. You felt like you had a stop. Thirteen penalties and two turnovers isn’t going to win you games in this league.”

There was a lot in the wreckage of this latest Eagles loss.

Let’s start with the quarterback position. With all due respect to Mark Sanchez, he is not the guy to lead your playoff push. He has 13 turnovers in seven games. Against Washington, the Birds back-up quarterback committed two turnovers—a fumble and possibly a season-killing interception late in the fourth quarter.

The miscues took away from what was a pretty good performance by Sanchez, who completed 37-of-50 passes for 374 yards and two touchdown passes to Riley Cooper. The Eagles rolled up 495 yards of offense. Tight end Zach Ertz had a team-record 15 receptions for 115 yards.

But with the game and the season on the line, Sanchez tossed a “Hail No,” instead of a Hail Mary to set up the game-winning field goal for Washington.

“It’s tough to swallow,” Sanchez said. “You want to get a win, especially with some of the outstanding performances we had. It’s really too bad when that happens and we lose.”

Now to say it was all Sanchez’s fault would be factually incorrect.

Somehow Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis didn’t remember the lesson of last Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys when wide receiver Dez Bryant torched cornerback Bradley Fletcher for three touchdowns: Give your cornerback safety help or at least have someone with him in double coverage.

The Birds “old friend” and former teammate DeSean Jackson had a field day and made Fletcher the “Toast” of D.C. He caught four passes for 126 yards including a pair of 50-yard plus passes that led to Washington touchdowns.

Fletcher was actually taken out of the game and replaced by Nolan Carroll at one point.

“(Fletcher) has had two bad weeks in a row. He was hoping to get out of that slump,” Davis said. “He didn’t. They went at him deep and they made the plays on him. I made the switch. … I think Fletch is a good corner, he’s lacking some confidence right now. They’ve been making some plays right on him, he’s in a slump.”

Oddly enough, the Eagles defensive coaches finally figured it out midway through the fourth  when Robert Griffin III went to the D-Jax well one more time on the deep bomb but safety Nate Allen backed up Fletcher and came away with the interception. By then it was too little, too late.

Another sure way to snatch defeat from what should have been the jaws of victory is to commit too many penalties. The Eagles committed 13 penalties for 102 yards.

Some of those penalties prolonged Washington drives on the defensive side of the ball including a roughing the passer penalty on defensive end Vinny Curry that moved Washington deep into the Eagles territory to set up the game-winning field goal.

“We just gotta play with more discipline. That’s what penalties are. That many, we just got to play with more discipline,” Davis said. “We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot. You can’t beat yourself in the NFL.”

While there were a couple of questionable roughing the passer calls, there were some penalties had no business committing. Early in the first quarter, cornerback Cary Williams got flagged for shoving Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon. It was a stupid penalty that should have been a third down stop.

Then the unthinkable thing happened. The always reliable Cody Parkey missed a pair of easy field goals inside of 40 yards. It was that kind of day for the Eagles.

“That’s the part that sucks because we know how much work we put in,” said Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham. “For us to beat ourselves that’s the worst way to go out.”

Suffice it to say, the City of Brotherly Love will be Colts fans on Sunday.

Maclin Showing He’s a More Versatile Receiver Than DeSean Jackson

28 Oct

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Jeremy Maclin has been the big home run hitter among the Eagles receivers. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Jeremy Maclin has been the big home run hitter among the Eagles receivers. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Amid the wreckage that was the Eagles 24-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, there was the outstanding performance by wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.

Lost in all the talk of safety Nate Allen getting burned on Carson Palmer’s game-winning 75-yard touchdown pass to John Brown, Maclin caught 12 passes for a career-high 187 yards and two touchdowns.

Even bigger than his numbers was the versatility that Maclin showed as a receiver on the passes he caught from quarterback Nick Foles. Maclin caught passes across the middle, on corner routes, screen passes and on deep routes.

“He’s a legitimate deep threat and he played a hell of a game for us (Sunday),” Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said.

To his credit, Maclin was more concerned about his team being on the short-end of a heartbreaking loss than his own individual performance.

“I’ve never been a stat guy… Today was just one of those days where my number was called. The win would be so much sweeter,” Maclin said.

The two touchdowns Maclin scored should tell you that he is more than a one-trick pony as a wide receiver. On his first score, Maclin used his speed on a flanker screen that enabled him to score on a 21-yard touchdown pass. Late in the third quarter, the former Missouri star caught a 54-yard bomb for a score.

“Mac did a great job of keeping his route on and really just beating them with speed. I just wanted to get the ball out there and let him come down with it. He had a great game,” Foles said.

Maclin leads the team in receptions with 39 and receiving yards with 632 (ninth in the NFL)and six touchdowns. He is averaging 16 yards per catch.

Kelly said he’s not surprised by Maclin’s performance so far this season. He said he was looking for him to do this last season before he injured his knee during training camp and was out for the year.

“I was so disappointed for Jeremy a year ago when he got hurt because I thought in terms of what we do, what a real outstanding player he could be in this system, and we’re starting to continue to see that,” Kelly said. “But I think he’s a difficult one on one matchup. He’s got good size, he’s got good speed.”
For those Eagles fans still whining over the loss of DeSean Jackson, now playing for Washington, you need to be happy with what you have at the receiver position with Maclin because it’s not just about stretching defenses with his speed, he is a better route-runner and is not shy about going across the middle.

“I think (Maclin) can stretch it from a vertical standpoint, but he can also run after the catch. I think he proved that not only early here in his career, but he proved that in college,” Kelly said. “We used him a little bit as a punt returner [and he] had a good punt return for us. We’re just starting to get to know him a little bit better than some of the other guys that have been here for a year.”

While Jackson’s speed did a good job of stretching opposing defenses last season, he was basically a one-trick pony who is not as good a route runner as Maclin and not as versatile. You’re not going to see Jackson, who leads the NFL in yards per catch, running across the middle to get passes.

Maclin also showed he had some heart in Sunday’s game. After a collision with Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, Maclin was nursing a bloody ear and had to go through the concussion protocols before he was allowed back in the game.

Throughout Sunday’s game, Maclin was all over the place hustling and making plays for his team. On one play after an incomplete pass he came barreling through the Arizona sideline knocking down the Gatorade table and getting doused with the beverage.

I don’t think Maclin’s speed is as explosive as Jackson’s, but I think Maclin so far this season is proving that he can do more than just go long. He can do it all. With all the weapons in the Eagles arsenal on offense, Maclin is slowly but steadily becoming the Eagles go-to guy in the passing game.

Are the Eagles better off without DeSean Jackson? After three games…Yes

23 Sep

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Jeremy Maclin has been the big home run hitter among the Eagles receivers. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Jeremy Maclin has been the big home run hitter among the Eagles receivers. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—When the Eagles released DeSean Jackson last season, the big concern was could the Birds replace Jackson’s production (82 receptions, 1,332 yards, and nine TDs) and his ability to stretch the field?

So far, the Eagles are 3-0 and the passing game, even with the slow starts, really hasn’t missed a beat without the speedy Jackson, now playing for Washington. The Birds air game ranks second in the NFL.

To be honest, I don’t think the Eagles really miss Jackson as good as he was last season. Chip Kelly’s offense gives everybody a chance to contribute and has the defense having to pick their poison.

“It’s all by design in terms of how people decided to defend us and obviously they packed the front and tried to take away (LeSean) McCoy and (Washington) did real good job of that, hats off to them,” Kelly said. “But if you’re going to do that, then our wideouts have to step up and play and I thought all those guys really did a good job of that (Sunday).”

Quarterback Nick Foles is averaging 326 yards passing per game and has six touchdown passes. Three of those touchdowns have gone to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. The former Missouri star leads the team in receptions (16), touchdowns (3) and yards per catch (18.5).

Though he’s not as fast as Jackson, Maclin is a more versatile wideout. He is catching passes running across the middle, on screen passes and on the deep ball. He has scored touchdowns in all three games. By the way, Maclin is no slowpoke and he does run 4.4 40-yard dash.

“Mac is doing a great job every time he’s out there,” Foles said.

In Sunday’s win over Washington, Maclin caught eight passes for 154 yards and one touchdown. He would have had two if not for an illegal block in the back by center Jason Kelce on a screen pass. Kelly said he’s not surprised by Maclin’s performance.

“He’s a big time receiver and that’s what we knew all along,” Kelly said. “We feel like we’re talented at the wide out spot.”

Eagles rookie Jordan Matthews had a big game against Washington last Sunday. The former Vanderbilt star caught two touchdown passes. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles rookie Jordan Matthews had a big game against Washington last Sunday. The former Vanderbilt star caught two touchdown passes. Photo by Webster Riddick.

And so far, Kelly is not wrong about the talent the Eagles have at the wide receiver position.

Rookie Jordan Matthews had a breakout performance against Washington. He caught eight passes for 59 yards and two touchdowns. Both scores came inside the red zone thanks to his tall 6-3 frame.

Having tall wide receivers like Matthews and Riley Cooper to maneuver the red zone is something the Birds haven’t had in quite some time.

For the first two weeks of the season, the game-breaker in the Eagles’ offense has been Darren Sproles. If it wasn’t for his explosive plays in both running game, the passing game and on special teams, the Birds might be 1-2 instead of 3-0.

Washington was well aware of both Sproles and LeSean McCoy managed to keep them under wraps. In fact, Washington’s defense forced a fumble from Sproles. The problem was they couldn’t stop the rest of the Eagles offense.

All of these things bring us back to Foles, who put on a gutsy performance against Washington. After surviving some tough starts, the former Arizona star has found a way to put the Eagles in the win column.

Foles’ best moment in the season thus far came in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win over Washington. With 10:07 left in the game, Foles, who leads the NFL in passing yardage, threw a pass that was ruled an interception by Washington cornerback Bashaud Breeland.

As Foles moved to forward to anticipate a run by Breeland, he took a hard hit from Washington defensive lineman Chris Baker and wound up on the ground writhing in pain. The hard block on Foles caused a huge melee along the sideline and resulted in the ejection of Baker and Eagles offensive tackle Jason Peters.

Meanwhile, the interception was overturned and Foles recovered to lead the Eagles on an eight play, 76-yard drive that would culminate in a 27-yard touchdown pass to Maclin that put the Eagles ahead for good.

What makes Foles play even more remarkable is that he’s had to play behind a patchwork offensive line with injuries to Evan Mathis, Allen Barbre and Kelce to go along with the suspension of second-year starter Lane Johnson.

“I said it before about him and I knew it because when I played against him in college, he’s going to stand in there, he’s a tough sucker. He got hit a lot (Sunday),” Kelly said.

Eagles Have Huge Expectations for Jeremy Maclin in 2014

4 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin addresses reporters after organized team activities last week at the Eagles Nova Care Practice facility in South Philadelphia. Photo by Chris Murray.

Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin addresses reporters after organized team activities last week at the Eagles Nova Care Practice facility in South Philadelphia. Photo by Chris Murray.

PHILADELPHIA—When Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin took the field for the Eagles organized team activities in late May, he ran patterns, participated in the various passing drills and even flopped around the field a few times diving for passes.

“Mac’s back,” said Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. “We’re excited to have him back. He’s doing a great job, he looks really good out there. He’s going to be a big part of this offense.”

For Maclin, doing the normal things that NFL wide receivers do to get ready for the upcoming season is something that he doesn’t take for granted. Last season, Maclin was all set to be a big contributor to head coach Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense, but an injury to his right anterior-cruciate ligament in his right knee during seven-on-seven drills ended his season.

Going through the first set of preseason workouts, Maclin said he’s not feeling any ill effects from the injury on the field and that his time in rehabilitation has prepared him to be back on the field.

“I’ve been at it for awhile. I’ve been since day one there with the team doing everything that they’re doing and it’s become routine now,” Maclin said. “I think throughout the rehab process my ability to continue to get better and progress each and every day. Once that started happening, I think that builds confidence and once you get confidence, the rest is just putting in the work.”

In 2013, the Eagles had the NFL’s No.2-ranked offense in total yardage, averaging 417 yards per game with Maclin on the sidelines. The Birds were also 4th in the league in points per game, scoring 27 per game. Quarterback Nick Foles, who took over for the injured Michael Vick, had a breakout year and led the Eagles to their first playoff appearance since 2010.

During the course of the Birds success last year, Maclin could only watch from the sidelines or even in the owner’s box at Lincoln Financial Field while spending many a lonely day rehabbing his injured right knee.

“It was tough with the new era beginning here in Philadelphia and my contract situation that I had, it was tough, but at the same time I was happy to see guys get out there and make plays and watch guys step up and fill that role. I am fortunate and I’m excited to be able to play football again.”

Despite the season-ending injury, the Eagles thought enough of Maclin, who was a free agent at the 2013 season, to sign him to a one-year deal with the possibility of him getting an even better deal if he performs well.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said he’s looking forward to seeing what Maclin can do in the offense and is expecting big things from the former Missouri star wideout.

“I was really excited about how he fits in with what we do because of what he can do,” Kelly said. “Losing him early in camp (last season) was disappointing because you only got a taste of him. Having him out there at full speed, he’s doing a great job.”

The last time Jeremy Maclin played a full regular season schedule he caught 69 passes for 857 yards and seven touches. Coming into 2014 season, Maclin said the measure of a good season for him is not his personal stats, but whether the Birds can do even better than last year’s playoff appearance.
“To consider it the best year of my career is to help this team win,” Maclin said. “I want to get further than we did last year. I plan on being a big part of this offense. If we have the success I think we can have and get to where I think we can get to, I think the stats will come, so I’m not going hang my head on certain stats or certain numbers. I’m just going to play football and do what my team asks me to do.”
Of course, Maclin was asked if he felt any added pressure to be the No. 1 receiver with the departure of DeSean Jackson, who is now playing for the Washington Redskins. An unemotional Maclin gave the reporter a very simple answer.
“Not at all,” he said.

 

Eagles Rookie Jordan Matthews Hopes to Make his Own Mark

17 May

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday

PHILADELPHIA—New Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews came into his first rookie minicamp press conference Friday humble and saying all the right things about the work he has ahead of him.

Rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews taking questions from reporters during a rookie camp press conference.   Photo by Chris Murray.

Rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews taking questions from reporters during a rookie camp press conference. Photo by Chris Murray.

Considering how some highly-touted college hotshots have come into the NFL with delusions of grandeur and over-hyped bravado, Matthews is definitely a breath of fresh air, especially when he was asked about dealing with the burden of having to replace former Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson.

“I don’t think there’s any pressure,” said Matthews, the Eagles second-round draft pick. “Like I’ve said, I’m a totally different player than DeSean Jackson. I don’t know where any of those comparisons are coming from. He’s a great player and I wish him all the best in Washington. At the same time, I’ve got to best player that I can be … There’s not pressure for a guy when you’ve got LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin and Nick Foles … I just gotta go in there and do my job.”

Okay, that’s fair.

But let’s keep it real here. Eagles fans are expecting. or more accurately, hoping Matthews will have a spectacular enough rookie season to replace Jackson’s 82 catches, 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns from last season. There are still more than a few Birds fans that were upset that the team unloaded Jackson without getting anything in return.

Realistically, it may take a season or two to know what the Eagles really have in the six-foot-three inch, 209-pound Matthews. That said, there’ a lot to like about this kid who seems to have a lot of upside when you look at him on paper and what he did at Vanderbilt.
Matthews is the Southeastern Conference’s all-time leading receiver. During his senior year, Matthews caught 112 passes for 1,477 yard and seven touchdowns. He had five games in which caught 10 or more passes in one of the most physical defensive conferences in the nation.
“I think here saw more man coverage than a lot of other guys. Because I think in that conference, the defensive backs match up,” said Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. “The one thing he does is catch the ball in traffic. He made an unbelievable amount of contested catches. You know, he’s got such a wing span and will go up and get it, and can play both inside and outside.”
I saw Matthews in Vanderbilt’s season-opener against Mississippi and he was lights out in the Commodores 39-35 loss. He caught 10 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown. He runs good routes and has good hands. He runs a 4.46 40-yard dash.

If there is one thing that you can’t measure in Matthew’s college statistics, you have to take a look at this guy’s heart. This was a kid who came out of high school in Madison, Ala with no major college offers and became the best receiver in the SEC. In fact, the only reason he got a scholarship was because another recruit backed out.

That only served to fuel his motivation during his years at Vanderbilt and that’s why being picked in the second round in the 2014 didn’t faze him.

“I think that edge was already with me coming out of high school. I think that was really the point where that chip really got on my shoulders. It wasn’t like I was being overlooked by some teams, I wasn’t wanted by anybody,” Matthews said. “I ended up where I needed to be.”

Matthews was also successful in the classroom at Vanderbilt.  He graduated with a degree in economics in three and half years.

Oddly enough, Matthews is the third cousin of Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice, who definitely knows something about being a long shot coming from a small school like Mississippi Valley State University. He said he’s learned a lot from the former San Francisco 49ers legend.

“He was definitely influential,” Matthews said. “I think one of the most influential things was watching him as a young child and growing up and being able to study his game and trying to apply some of those things to my game. He has given me some advice and I really appreciate that.”