Three things immediately came into my head after hearing that Jordan Matthews was at the NovaCare Complex today:
- He’s only 26 years old.
- He has familiarity with Carson Wentz.
- He caught 16 touchdowns in his first two seasons with the Eagles and was productive in the not-so-distant past.
All positive stuff there, those knee-jerk mental reactions.
However, the next things that I considered were this:
- He’s a slot receiver and plays the same position as Nelson Agholor, who is coming off a career year.
- He didn’t do well in Buffalo last year, dealt with a knee issue, and was released by the Patriots with an injury settlement (hamstring) this summer.
- He’s had some drop issues in the past.
Three positives and three negatives, but when you add all of it up, it does make some sense moving forward. You plug the gap with a guy who knows your system and knows your head coach and quarterback, a guy who comes cheap and doesn’t bring baggage or bullshit with him.
For starters, I don’t know who else is really out there. Corey Coleman? Trade for a guy like DaVante Parker or Marvin Jones? Seems like a bit of a reach to go the “outsider” route unless you wanted to really roll the dice with an uber-talented head case like Josh Gordon or Dez Bryant.
If you bring Matthews in, you could play him in the slot and keep Agholor on the outside temporarily, which is what the Eagles are already doing anyway. Then you can go with some combination of Shelton Gibson and whomever else on the outside while leaning on the tight ends and running game to tide you over until Alshon Jeffery returns.
This is what you’d be getting back with J-Matt:
Yeah, he only found the end zone three times in 2016, but he still caught 73 balls and averaged 11 yards per catch. It’s not like he just fell off a cliff during his third Philly season. And he really hasn’t missed that many games. He played 16, 16, 14, and 10 over his four seasons, which is 87.5% of total games. He’s more healthy than I think people realize, and underwent surgery for the issues he had in Buffalo.
There really are worse ways to move it forward. Matthews gives you enough flex that you can run three receiver sets with Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor on the field together. A trio of Matthews/Ertz/Agholor is talented enough to beat the Colts at home and the Titans on the road.
If you insist on sending out four receivers with a running back on the field, there’s no reason why something like this couldn’t work:
Likewise, if you don’t trust your outside receivers like Gibson and Kamar Aiken, just bunch ’em up, put Ertz inside, and go two tight-ends instead:
Yeah? No? You can do a lot of different things here. The Eagles really don’t run trips, but you can do different variations of 12 personnel to get the most out of your tight ends. There are ways to get it done.
The path forward, with or without Matthews:
- Use Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor early and often. Line them up in different spots and benefit from their versatility. Ertz is as much of a receiver as he is a blocker at this point in his career.
- Get Dallas Goedert involved. He’s 6’5,” looked good in the preseason, and you traded up to draft him.
- Corey Clement can catch the ball. Throw him some screens, give him a wheel route or two, and let him run the ball 10-12 times. Wendell Smallwood, Gibson, and others can handle his special teams duties. Clement needs to have a bigger role in the offense, no matter what the injury situation looks like.
- Run the football more in general
- At least let Shelton Gibson stretch the defense. Maybe he’s not ready for serious NFL snaps right now, but he still has enough speed to go vertical and open things up for others.
Just so we’re clear here, no, I don’t think Jordan Matthews is the panacea for all existing Eagle ailments. But he is reliable and steady and stable, which cannot be said about Josh Gordon and Dez Bryant.