The fans have noticed. The coaches have noticed. And now the NFL rushing champion has noticed as well.
LeSean McCoy said Tuesday after practice that he’s been particularly impressed by rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews, the Eagles’ second-round pick from Vanderbilt.
Matthews, the all-time SEC receiving leader, has enjoyed a promising training camp so far, and McCoy -– asked to identify guys who’ve stood out to him so far -- didn’t hesitate to name the 6-foot-3 slot receiver.
"That rookie we got, Matthews, is looking real good,” he said. “I think there's been a lot of talk about this draft class being deep at wide receiver, but I'm real confident in this one being the best one out of that class.”
Matthews caught 262 passes for 3,759 yards in four years at Vanderbilt and had 112 catches last season. All are SEC records.
He’s worked almost exclusively in the slot so far in camp, although he has gotten some reps with the first team outside in the last few days.
“I mean, it's still early and you've got to go through the season and see how he does,” said McCoy, the 2013 NFL rushing leader. “But he looks amazing.”
Only five rookie receivers in Eagles history have caught as many as 40 passes in a season. Don Looney had 58 in 1939, and more recently Victor Bailey (41 in 1993), Reggie Brown (43 in 2005), DeSean Jackson (62 in 2008) and Jeremy Maclin (56 in 2009) have done it.
Unlike Maclin, Jackson and Brown, who were all rookie starters under Andy Reid, Matthews won’t be asked to start, as long as Maclin and Riley Cooper are healthy. He’ll start out primarily in the slot, which should make things easier for him.
"Rookies, don't want to put too much pressure on him, and he doesn't have too much pressure because we have myself and other guys doing a lot of the load,” McCoy said.
“But the kid, from being 6-3, can run like a deer, he's strong and physical, he works extremely hard, and that's all you can ask for from a player like that and I'm sure he'll do some damage.
“Not a lot of pressure on him. He's not the No. 1 receiver, so he doesn’t have to do that, but just when he's called on to make plays.”
Matthews is a very humble kid who generally deflects all the praise sent his way.
But when the source of that praise is the NFL rushing leader and a two-time first-team all-pro, that’s a little different.
"It feels good because a guy like LeSean, he’s not just gonna just say things that you’re like, ‘OK, it’s whatever,’” Matthews said.
“The biggest thing he takes pride in for himself, you watch him come out here, he practices so hard. The No. 1 running back in the league, you would expect a guy like that who’s had that kind of success to kind of lay off a little bit. He comes out here and practices hard every single day.
“He’s not just one of the best running backs, he’s also one of the hard-working, too. So he’s watching everybody else. He wants to make sure everybody else is accountable, too. So for him to compliment me in that way, it means a lot. But it also tells me I’ve got to continue to come out here and put that product on the field because I want my teammates to think that of me.
“The outside world, the public or anything like that -- those speculations, those opinions, it really don’t matter as much as what my teammates say, so that’s big for me."
McCoy also singled out Allen Barbre, who will begin the season as the Eagles’ starting right tackle while Lane Johnson serves his four-game suspension.
“Barbre actually looks pretty good,” he said. “I knew he could play, and Lane being out the first couple games, I think Barbre will play a big role and make some plays. Those two guys are really standing out.”