Eagles rookie Matthews catching praise

Posted: June 12, 2014

SO FAR, Jordan Matthews is the star of Eagles' organized team activities.

We could spend the next several paragraphs issuing disclaimers about practicing without pads and/or contact, and about how much Chip Kelly feels his 6-3, 212-pound, second-round rookie wide receiver from Vanderbilt still needs to learn, but that would be kind of boring. We'll get to all that later. First, here's what NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger had to say after watching Matthews yesterday, on a steamy afternoon in South Philly that saw Matthews catch four passes in a row during a seven-on-seven drill.

"I think you just have to look at everything about him - the size, the character, the person. You can see him being successful here," said Baldinger, a former Eagles offensive lineman. "There's something special about the kid . . . I think what we've seen this offseason is that divas don't win championships, and this kid I think is about as far away from a diva as there is."

(Gosh, whatever could Baldy be referencing?)

"It's just a matter of time before the rhythm, the groove, the game-planning just falls his way . . . He couldn't have gone to a better place. The quarterback, the structure, the stability here . . . He's going to get a chance to catch a lot of passes in the next 4 years."

He caught quite a few yesterday.

"I don't know if I've been around a rookie that can work like that," said quarterback Mark Sanchez, who runs the second-team unit, where Matthews usually practices. "He caught four balls in a row in that seven-on period. The coach is yelling at him to finish the last play and he sprints down to the goal line, about 60 yards. I know he was gassed. He's one of those guys who doesn't say much, just comes in and works hard and asks a ton of questions."

Sanchez noted that this was one of the first days he hasn't thrown with Matthews after practice. As Sanchez spoke, Matthews was still on the field, working with fellow rookie wideout Quron Pratt, from Palmyra and Rutgers.

"Anything that doesn't look right in practice, [Matthews] wants it again," Sanchez said.

"He definitely knows his stuff. He's an intelligent player who definitely gets the offense, doesn't have a whole lot of mental mistakes," QB Matt Barkley said. "As a quarterback to a receiver, that always gives you confidence. He may not be the quickest guy out there, but you know where he'll be . . . you can count on him. He's impressed a lot of people so far."

"Sneaky speed," safety Earl Wolff said. "You would think with how he runs, he's a long guy" who would have a loping stride, but "he's pretty fast, pretty explosive. Catches basically everything you throw at him."

We can begin the disclaimer process with Matthews himself. Is he impressed or surprised at how much he has stood out during OTAs?

"Not really. I just feel like, when you play wide receiver and you're in OTAs, there's not a lot of hitting. The defensive guys aren't going to be able to showcase too much what they can do, you gotta get the pads on, let them hit," Matthews said. "The running backs, you know, I can't wait [until] we get pads on so people can see what [rookies] Henry Josey and David Fluellen can do out there. It's just the timing right now, the ball's going to be in the air a lot, I'm trying to make the most of those opportunities."

In other words, OTAs are naturally a wideout showcase, with no man-press coverage or hitting, and there might be rookies at other positions who would stand out more if this were real football. But that doesn't quite explain how it is that Matthews seems to outperform all of the other wideouts, not just the other rookies, in sessions reporters have been allowed to watch.

Last week, he was working more in the slot; yesterday, he seemed to work more outside. Either place, you notice him, and how quickly he seems to have made himself at home in Kelly's offense.

"There's still a lot of nuances in it I'm still trying to figure out," Matthews said. "I just try to keep going back, every single day, and constantly just repeat. Any things I think I know, I still like to go over those plays, draw 'em in my head."

Kelly has praised Matthews extensively this spring, but yesterday he seemed to want to keep expectations grounded.

First, Kelly gave us an Andy Reidesque, "Jordan has done a nice job," noting that all the rookies are still getting acclimated with the schemes.

"You get great effort and a consistent approach on a daily basis from what he gives you," Kelly said. "So we're really excited about him. But right now, he's still just acting like a rookie."

When Matthews came off the field yesterday - he was one of the last players to head for the locker room - Baldinger told him how impressed he'd been with Matthews in a Vanderbilt-Missouri game Baldinger watched in preparation for the draft.

"Vanderbilt threw a pick on the first series or the second series of the game. [Matthews] came out of nowhere and just crushed this guy," ending the interception return, Baldinger recalled.

Baldinger reiterated a point Eagles officials have made - you don't become the SEC's all-time leading receiver, playing for a Vanderbilt team that lacks other weapons, against defenses designed to stop you, without having a special drive.

"You gotta keep rolling, no matter what," Matthews said.

What does he tell the folks back home, when they ask what Kelly's fastbreak practices are like?

"I tell 'em I love it," he said. "I tell 'em I'm in the best opportunity in the NFL. I know there were receivers that went before me [in the draft], but I couldn't have wished for a better spot."


On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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