Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles trade up and pick WR Jordan Matthews

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Eagles trade up and pick WR Jordan Matthews

The Eagles moved up 12 spots in the second round Friday night and got the wide receiver they desperately needed in Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews, the all-time leading wide receiver in SEC history.

The Eagles selected Matthews with the 42nd pick, which they acquired from the Titans in exchange for the 54th pick, the Eagles' original second-round pick, and No. 122, their fourth-round pick.

"Every opportunity I’ve ever had in football, I’ve had to grind for it," Matthews said. "Nothing has ever been given to me. When the ball’s in the air it’s mine. That’s the attitude I have every time I go out on the football field.”

Matthews (see bio) has size (6-3, 212) and speed (he ran a 4.4 40). He caught 262 passes for 3,759 yards for 24 touchdowns at Vandy, with his production increasing each year: 4-for-181 with four TDs as a freshman, 41-for-778 with five TDs as a sophomore, 94-for-1,328 with eight touchdowns as a junior and 12-for-1,477 with seven TDs last season.

“First thing you do, you look at his numbers and they’re off the charts,” Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said. “He’s 6-3, ran 4.46 at the combine, got a great wing span, great verticle jump, intelligent kid, graduated college in 3½ years.”

In what has been widely accepted as the deepest wide receiver draft ever, Matthews was the seventh wide receiver selected, three spots after the other second-round wide out the Eagles coveted -- USC's Marqise Lee.

Matthews said he has no idea why he wasn't taken until the 42nd pick. And doesn't care.

"I don’t have the answer," he said. "I don’t know how this whole process works. I’m not worried about any of the picks ahead of me, I’m ready to go up there and get to work with the Philadelphia Eagles."

The Eagles went into the draft with only two proven wide receivers on the roster – Jeremy Maclin, who missed last year with his second ACL, and Riley Cooper, who had nine games a year ago with fewer than 40 receiving yards.

Earlier this offseason, the Eagles released the two wideouts with the most receptions on the team in the last 20 years – DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant.

Kelly said Matthews will start out in the slot, the spot occupied by Avant for most of the last eight years.

“He’s got such a wing span and will go up and get it, will play both inside and outside,” Kelly said. “We’ll start him inside. He’s got the speed to play on the outside and he’s got the size. He can do a lot of different things we can do, but the intangible things that Jason Avant brought to the slot -- being physical, being able to block -- I think he can do that along with exploit man coverage.”

Matthews is the first wideout the Eagles have taken in the first two rounds since Maclin in 2009.

Before taking Jackson, a three-time Pro Bowler, in the second round in 2008, the four previous wideouts the Eagles drafted in the second round were Mike Bellamy in 1990, Victor Bailey in 1993, Todd Pinkston in 2000 and Reggie Brown in 2005.

Matthews was asked if he’s coming to Philly to replace Jackson.

"I just want to be the best teammate I can be," he said. "I'm just going to go in and shut my mouth and get to work."

Kelly said the one thing that stood out the most about Matthews was his ability to make plays against man coverage in the best defensive conference in the country.

He said since the Eagles play at such a high tempo, opposing defenses generally play a lot of man because it’s the easiest coverage to get into quickly.

“The one thing he can do is catch the ball in traffic,” Kelly said. “He made an unbelievable amount of contested catches. It’s huge. A lot of times when you're looking at guys, it’s apples and oranges. This guy was productive and had X amount of catches, but who’s covering him? He saw a lot more man than a lot of guys because in that conference there’s a lot of man. It’s a defensive conference with some great football teams and great coaches.

“The remarkable thing is everybody knew when Vanderbilt played a game, everybody knew he’d be getting the ball, but he still got the ball.

“At the receiver position, [the biggest thing] is your ability to beat 1-on-1 coverage. Honestly. We see it so much. You’re going to have to catch a lot of contested footballs."

Kelly compared Matthews' ability to use his big frame to battle for contested balls with that of Riley Cooper, who caught 47 balls for 835 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago in his first year as an NFL starter.

“I think that’s one of the things that makes Riley so good," Kelly said. "He’s 6-4, 6-5, and he can muscle and go get the ball," Kelly said. "People play defense so close in ths league, your ability to go get the football really seperates people. That’s what you see when you look on the film.

“People match up with us because of what we do. We’re going to see man a lot, so getting guys who exploit that coverage, that’s what we’re looking for, and that’s what he really can do.

“If your smaller DB is going to play in the slot, now he has to match up with a guy who’s 6-3, 217 pounds.”

The Eagles were able to move down from 22 to 26 Thursday to select linebacker Marcus Smith and pick up a third-round pick, and a day later, they moved up 12 spots, and it cost them only a fourth-round pick.

“We held our breath in what it would take to get up there," Kelly said. "We think he’d be around at 54. Getting the extra pick, it worked out perfectly. Now we feel like we'll get four pretty good players in the first 86 picks."

Former Eagles' draft pick Jordan Poyer excited for opportunity with Bills

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Former Eagles' draft pick Jordan Poyer excited for opportunity with Bills

And then there's the former Eagle on the Bills who is a little less famous.
 
It was cataclysmic when Chip Kelly traded LeSean McCoy to the Bills. It was historic when Howie Roseman traded Jordan Matthews to the Bills.
 
Jordan Poyer's journey from Philly to Buffalo is a little bit different and a whole lot less well-known. But the one-time Eagles draft pick has become an important part of Sean McDermott's defense.
 
Poyer, who signed as a free agent with the Bills this past offseason, was the second of three Eagles seventh-round picks in 2013. He made the team as a long-shot cornerback and played in three games as a rookie before getting released on Oct. 19 so the Eagles could sign running back Matthew Tucker off their practice squad.
 
The Eagles hoped to land Poyer on the practice squad, but the Browns claimed him, and he wound up spending four years in Cleveland, playing in 45 games and starting four last year with two interceptions before his season ended with a horrific injury — a lacerated kidney.
 
He finally escaped Cleveland this spring, signing a four-year, $13 million deal with the Bills that includes $7.4 million in guaranteed money and he goes into the regular season as the Bills' starting free safety.
 
Not bad for the 46th defensive back taken in the 2013 draft.
 
“Being in Philadelphia, starting my career here was huge," Poyer said Thursday night after the Eagles-Bills preseason game at the Linc.
 
"I’m in Year 5 now and you never know what would have happened if I didn’t start out here, start my career here. It was a big part of my foundation, learning the NFL game."
 
The Browns went 12-47 while Poyer was in Cleveland, and he played under three head coaches and four defensive coordinators during his stay with Cleveland.
 
“It was a challenge," he said, shaking his head. "We all play this game to win football games. That’s the name of the business, the name of the game. That’s why we start playing when we’re little. Anytime you’re not winning it’s always tough.
 
"I’m trying to put that time of my life behind me now, I’m here in Buffalo now and happy here."

But the one good thing that happened to Poyer in Cleveland was the switch from corner to safety.
 
“It's a lot different and it took some time," he said. "But I feel good about it, felt good about making the switch. Took it and ran with it and learned the position.
 
"It's still a new position, and I still have a lot of things to learn, but I feel like it was good for me. Really one of the best things to happen to my career."

In Buffalo, Poyer's head coach, McDermott, and defensive coordinator, Leslie Frazier, are both former Eagles secondary coaches. Nobody has a better feel for the secondary than McDermott, who played in the same secondary as Mike Tomlin at William & Mary and worked under Jim Johnson for a decade in Philly before going to a Super Bowl with Ron Rivera in Carolina.

"It's a great situation for me with Sean and Leslie," Poyer said. "Sean coaches us every day, helps us get better, helps get the whole football team better. I learn something from him every day."
 
Poyer has played in more games than 24 of the defensive backs drafted ahead of him in 2013 and in more games than all but five of the 47 other seventh-round picks that year.
 
The only defensive back the Eagles have taken in the seventh round the last 50 years who's played in more career games is Kurt Coleman, another player who revived his career under McDermott.
 
To go from seventh-round pick to $7½ million in guaranteed money is quite a story, but Poyer is so grounded he said he doesn't really think about the big picture of his career arc.
 
“During the season, you’re moving so fast you don’t really have time to sit back and look at what you’ve accomplished or how far you’ve come," he said.
 
"At the end of the season or at the end of my career I’ll look back on it and soak in everything that I had to go through and got to where I am now, but right now, I'm just focused on getting ready (for opening day).
 
"Philly gave me a good opportunity, made a lot of good friends here and now excited to be here in Buffalo."

Let's learn from past, keep Eagles' preseason positives and negatives in perspective

Let's learn from past, keep Eagles' preseason positives and negatives in perspective

It happens this time every year. 

Two preseason games are now in the books and the overreaction portion of the program has commenced. It's only natural. We're seven-plus months removed from the Eagles' last regular-season game. You have an entire offseason of hype and buildup. There's free agency, the draft, OTAs, training camp, and finally, there's the wonderful world of exhibition games. We're dying for storylines and answers. And projections based on illusions become reality.

A stroll through some names of training camps past is a stark reminder not to go overboard anointing these guys the next big thing. Here are some blasts from the past: Henry Josey, Jeremy Bloom, JaCorey Shepherd, Gizmo Williams, Billy Hess. Remember them? No points off if you don't, but they were thought to be the answers in years past.   

Remember way back in the day, like Aug. 29, 2015? The Eagles played their third preseason against Green Bay. New Birds quarterback Sam Bradford's line that night: 10 for 10, 121 yards, three touchdowns and a 156.7 passer rating on three drives. They thought they had found their guy. Bradford went on to have a middling season with a 7-7 record as a starter. His individual stats matched the record, and a year later, he was dealt to Minnesota. His coach, Chip Kelly, did not last the season. 

Take last year for instance — Paul Turner was Jerry Rice reincarnated. Now, the receiving corps was awful and Turner, an undrafted free agent stuck with the practice squad, eventually got time with the club during the regular season. But we may want to hold off on his Canton enshrinement.

Which brings us to the consternation surrounding the 2017 Eagles' first-team offense and running game. Granted, sans two amazingly athletic plays by Carson Wentz in the Packers game, the first team has not looked ready for prime time. 

But let's take some things into account. Teams game plan minimally for preseason games. Unless, of course, you're Dom Capers and you blitz an entire exhibition game. The Eagles did not prepare for the extra men sent, therefore they didn't handle it well.

Thursday against the Bills, the Eagles' first-team offense was without left tackle Jason Peters. They were also missing Wendell Smallwood, and Darren Sproles barely sniffed the field. That will hurt production. 

In the Packers game, 5-foot-9, 180-pound Donnel Pumphrey ran the ball off-tackle multiple times. That ain't happening in the regular season. Would you like to see Wentz protected better and the ones more productive? No question. Is it time to push the panic button? Certainly not.

The flip side is keeping some of the positive performances in perspective. It's beyond encouraging how Mychal Kendricks has looked through the first two games. But let's not lose sight of the non-factor he's been the last couple of seasons when things were real. 

There is not a bigger believer in Derek Barnett than me. From the moment I knew where the Eagles would be drafting, I wanted him in midnight green. I'm a firm believer he will be starting sooner rather than later. And he has not disappointed in the exhibition games. But some of the guys he is facing will be pumping gas in Jersey real soon. Not playing in the NFL.

Perspective and long views are not easily attained. But they're necessary tools when it comes to this time of year.