Eagles second-round pick no DeSean Jackson

Posted: May 11, 2014

The pitch from Chip Kelly was that the Eagles moved up in the second round Friday night and got the wide receiver they wanted and needed to replace Jason Avant.

Before you insert laughter here, you should know that Kelly wasn't kidding.

Not once after the Eagles cut a deal with the Tennessee Titans on Friday night to take Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews with the 42d overall pick did Kelly even mention the other receiver who left town earlier this offseason.

What was his name again?

Oh, yeah, DeSean Jackson. Remember him, the guy who led the team in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns last season?

He is out of Kelly's sight and clearly out of the coach's mind. The last six weeks have been spent analyzing whether the coach was out of his mind for letting his most skilled player walk away for nothing in return. Kelly, you won't be surprised to learn, does not think so.

Exactly what triggered that controversial decision may never be known, but the selection of Matthews was another indication that Jackson wasn't the kind of guy Kelly wanted hanging around the NovaCare Complex for another season.

Matthews, on the other hand, may be the role model for all future Eagles draft picks during Kelly's tenure. The coach mentioned a couple of times that Matthews graduated from Vanderbilt in 31/2 years. He did so with a degree in economics.

"That was really important to me because I wanted to make sure I was completely done with schooling once I got to the NFL," Matthews said. "I wanted to wake up a professional athlete and go to bed as a professional athlete. I wanted to be a complete football player, so I didn't want any distractions off the field, including school. I was glad I was able to finish that off and give that degree to my mom."

It's obvious that Matthews is a lot closer in personality to Avant than Jackson. After listening to him talk for six minutes on a conference call, you could tell he aced the interview process during the scouting combine, his pro day, and his visits to whatever teams.

Matthews, who will turn 23 in July, was the star on coach James Franklin's team at Vanderbilt, and the Commodores didn't have any other ones. He will be just another option and not the first one in Kelly's offense as a rookie. Kelly said Matthews will play mostly as a slot receiver in his first season, the position that was vacated by Avant's free-agent departure.

"It's definitely going to be a little bit different than my time at Vanderbilt," Matthews said. "Like I said, I'm going to go in and be the best teammate I can be. I want to definitely earn the respect of those guys. I'm going to go in, shut my mouth, and just work."

He didn't sound like a young man who was going to spend much time working on his rap label in the future, but he does play the piano, and he is Jerry Rice's cousin. Rice was to the NFL during his playing days what James Brown was to show business.

It's great, of course, to have good character, but from a talent perspective the Eagles need Matthews to be closer to Jackson, a former second-round pick and three-time Pro Bowler, than Avant, a fourth-round selection who caught 12 touchdowns in eight seasons with the team.

"I think the first thing you do is look at his numbers," Kelly said. "I think they're off the charts. He's the all-time leading receiver in SEC history. He's 6-foot-3. He's a little heavier than he was at the combine - 217 pounds. He ran a 4.46 [40-yard dash] at the combine. Great wing span and vertical jump. Intelligent kid that graduated college in 31/2 years."

Immediately after the Eagles made their second-round selection, former NFL general manager Charley Casserly said on NFL.com that Matthews had a disappointing Senior Bowl week, dropping a lot of balls. He also said the receiver won't be able to beat one-on-one coverage the way Jackson did.

Kelly didn't disagree, and he doesn't think it's going to matter.

"The most important thing for a receiver position is your ability to beat one-on-one coverage," Kelly said. "Honestly, I don't think people really beat it. You're going to have to catch a lot of contested footballs. I think that's one of the things that makes Riley [Cooper] such a good target. . . . I think he can muscle and go get the ball. That's a tangible thing when you look at [Matthews] on film."

So get this straight: Jordan Matthews is replacing Jason Avant as the slot receiver and can go get a contested football with the same ferocity as Riley Cooper.

He is definitely not the next - what's his name again?


bbrookover@phillynews.com

@brookob

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