Unselfish Jordan Matthews saying all the right things


Unselfish Jordan Matthews saying all the right things

A reporter made the mistake of asking Jordan Matthews on Thursday about personal goals for the upcoming season.
“You must have some?”
Matthews didn’t answer as much as he glared at the questioner and then mumbled, “I don’t,” and then his voice trailed off into something unintelligible.
You’ll never get Matthews to talk about himself. Which might be the most impressive thing about the young wide receiver from Vanderbilt. He seems to have no ego.
Matthews, probably the Eagles’ most important rookie, and his teammates finished their spring workouts Thursday with a third day of mandatory minicamp following 10 OTA days.
It’s been an auspicious debut for Matthews, although it’s important not to put too much weight on no-pads workouts in May and June.
“I think I did all right,” Matthews said after the final practice of the spring. “The main two things that I always want to control are my attitude and my effort, so I feel like I was able to come out and give 100 percent. I just have to continue to get better at the little things, too.
“It’s been great, informative, definitely a great learning environment. I can’t ask to be part of a better team, a better organization.
“Coach [Chip] Kelly, coach Bick [Bob Bicknell], coach Pat [Shurmur], they’ve all made it a great atmosphere for me to come here and get better and I appreciate that. Now I just have to go out there and make plays for them.”
Matthews worked mainly in the slot during OTAs and minicamp, but he also got some reps outside with the first offense on occasion.
Don’t expect him to get too excited about that. It’s June. Means nothing.
This guy always says exactly the right thing.
“There’s no ‘teams,’” he said. “Everybody’s trying out, everybody’s trying to get better. We’ll find out what teams are once we get to [opening day] Sept. 7.
“When I’m in there with Nick [Foles], when I’m in there with Mark [Sanchez], when I’m in there with Matt [Barkley] or with G.J. [Kinne] it’s all the same thing, I’m just trying to go out there and get better.”
Matthews, the 42nd pick in this year’s draft, set an SEC record this past fall with 112 catches, and his 1,477 yards were third-most in conference history. He finished his college career with SEC records of 242 catches and 3,759 yards.
With his speed, size, hands, work ethic and intelligence, it’s intriguing to see what he’ll be able to do on the NFL level.
“Jordan has done a nice job since he's gotten here,” Kelly said. “Obviously, for all the rookies it's getting acclimated with what we are doing in terms of schemes and learning new terminology, but you get great effort and a consistent approach on a daily basis from what he gives you.”
Now the rookie second-round pick has five weeks on his own before reporting back to the NovaCare Complex for training camp, which opens July 26.
There are no rookie days at the start of training camp this summer, so starting July 26, the pads go on Matthews will start competing for playing time in earnest.
Matthews said the next five weeks won’t be a vacation. He’ll continue to do everything he’s been doing, except he’ll be doing it by himself instead of with his teammates.
“Continue to hydrate, continue to eat right,” he said. “I know I’m going to work out, I know I’m going to train hard, continue to focus on the little things, nutrition, making sure I get enough sleep and those things.
“I’m always looking forward to the next step. The main thing is getting better in these next five weeks that I have essentially off -- put that in quotations -- but just trying to get better each day.”

Agholor, Huff and Green-Beckham avoiding Eagles' trade rumors

Agholor, Huff and Green-Beckham avoiding Eagles' trade rumors

While head coach Doug Pederson on Wednesday denied reports the Eagles have inquired about the availability of veteran wide receivers (see story), it's fair to wonder how those rumors affect the psyche of the guys who are already here. True or not, there's a reason why stories about trades are believable.

The Eagles' current crop of receivers hasn't been very impactful, particularly Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff and Dorial Green-Beckham. Yet despite disappointing numbers, constant questions about their lack of production and now rumblings somebody like Torrey Smith or Alshon Jeffery could be coming to take their jobs, the young trio doesn't sound too worried.

"We all have a job to do here, and if you're worried about somebody else, you're going to lose sight of your own job," Agholor said. "Just like anybody else in any workplace, you need to focus on yourself and execute your job."

"That has nothing to do with me," Huff said. "As long as I'm confident in the way I do my job, everything else will speak for itself."

"It's something I'm completely not worried about," Green-Beckham added. "I'm really just focusing on myself and whatever happens, happens."

Not only do the Eagles' wideouts sound genuinely unconcerned by trade rumors, they almost seem to welcome the competition.

"It motivates you, especially if you're still around," Agholor said. "Or if you get sent somewhere else, you understand that you have to wake up. You have to wake up and you have to make plays."

"I'm a competitor," Huff said. "I'm not going to say no to a competition, but if they do want a veteran receiver, so be it. It doesn't bother us."

It's certainly the right attitude to have, maybe even the only one. Still, trade rumors — whether rumors are all they are or not — is a clear indictment of this group's performance this season.

Jordan Matthews has been OK, but far from a prolific No. 1 receiver who makes up for a lack of complementary weapons. The third-year player is currently on pace to finish 2016 with 67 receptions for 944 yards and five touchdowns, all of which would be down from his previous season's totals.

Agholor is second on the team with 18 receptions for 191 yards, Huff has 12 catches for 63 yards and Green-Beckham has 13 for 139. All three have found the end zone once, as well.

What's troubling about those numbers is that not only the lack of production but also the lack of plays they've made down the field. Agholor and Green-Beckham are both averaging less than 11 yards per reception, while Huff is averaging a paltry 5.3.

It's no wonder the Eagles' front office would show interest in deep threats like Smith and Jeffery, both of whom are proven capable of stretching the field.

"I just work every day and try to get separation to the best of my ability," Agholor said. "I have a great receivers coach that tries to help me with my releases and fine-tune that, but the most important thing I feel like with creating separation is a mindset, because this is a league where it's good on good every day."

"It's just what the coaches see, what the coaches want from us," Huff said. "Obviously, would I want to get the ball downfield? Yes. Has it gone that way? No, but my job is to continue to get better each and every day, and once my number is called, I'll be ready to make that play."

Pederson defended the big-play ability of his wideouts.

"Nelson can stretch it," Pederson said. "Josh can stretch it. But I think it's protection and design of the play. When I think of stretching the field, I mean, a guy can run fast and that can be stretching the field, but who can really take the top off?

"Those two guys are two that can do that."

Agholor, the Eagles' first-round pick in 2015, has faced these kinds of questions since his underwhelming rookie season. He's getting used to people doubting his ability, but that's not stopping him from keeping a positive attitude.

"I think the most important thing is to progress each day, and have a next-play mentality, too," Agholor said. "Some of the greatest players in this league, they drop balls, I'm sure guys have probably jammed them before, however it goes, but the best thing they can do is just bounce back, line up again and win the next matchup.

"I want to continue to have that mindset and allow it to speak for itself so I don't have to sit here and tell. If every time you're all asking me that, it must mean you all don't see that."

Green-Beckham has a little bit more of a unique perspective on this matter than Agholor and Huff. While the second-year receiver is staying positive and motivated, as well, he's been on the other end of these rumors and was ultimately traded from the Titans to the Eagles back in August.

Because he's been with the team for only a couple of months, Green-Beckham didn't seem too worried he's running out of opportunities with the Eagles.

"I just got here, so I don't think I'm going to end up leaving when I just got here," Green-Beckham said. "For some guys, you really have to worry about that, and you just have to focus on trying to compete, trying to get better and better each and every day and doing the little things."

Green-Beckham also knows better than anyone how such a trade would increase expectations on the players already inside the locker room, and he had a message for his teammates.

"I just know how it feels for guys who come in as traded, and for guys who've been here, you just have to understand you're going to have to compete when stuff like that happens," Green-Beckham said. "It makes your job a lot hard, but you just have to focus more.

"It's a business. Like they say, the NFL stands for not for long, so you always have that in your thoughts, and know every opportunity, you have to take advantage of it."

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

Every morning on his way to work, Jaylen Watkins drives down Broad Street toward the NovaCare Complex and thinks back to his three months on the Bills' practice squad.

The former fourth-round pick out of Florida in 2014 joined the Bills' practice squad after the Eagles cut him last Sept. 5 in what he has previously referred to as a “humbling” experience.

“I try to never forget that moment because it was definitely a soul-searching moment,” Watkins said Wednesday. “Anyone who is released or fired from their job, you have to do some soul-searching.

“Every day that I drive down Broad Street, I think about Buffalo and how far I’ve come and just not wanting to be on a practice squad again. Nothing’s wrong with the practice squad, but my goal is to be on the 53 and making contributions to the team.”

Watkins isn’t just on the Eagles’ 53 after rejoining them late in 2015. For the rest of the 2016 season, he’s also expected to have a major role.

After Ron Brooks was lost for the season when he tore his quad tendon against the Vikings, Malcolm Jenkins is the Eagles’ new slot cornerback. That means that Watkins, 23, will be the second safety on the field in the team’s nickel package.

That meant that he played 46 snaps against the Vikings after Brooks went out. And with how much teams pass in the current NFL, he’ll probably play a considerable amount the rest of the season.

“It’s something that I’ve been waiting for and I’ve just been patient,” Watkins said. “I’ve been waiting for this experience, so I’m just excited. This week was amazing for me. … It was good for me this past week to be in the game plan and putting yourself in position that this could possibly be me on the first play of the game.”

Jenkins has said multiple times that he enjoys playing as the slot corner, but until Brooks went down, the team thought it was better off with him staying at safety.

With the secondary shuffle, what’s different with Watkins at safety instead of Jenkins?

“Nothing really, man,” the Eagles’ other starting safety, Rodney McLeod, said. “It’s been a next-man-up mentality this whole year. … Guys have a lot of experience back there. I don’t think we’re going to miss a beat. It’s obviously an unfortunate situation with Ron playing great. But Jenkins is ready and so is (Jalen) Mills and Watkins.”

Watkins was drafted by the Eagles in the fourth round in 2014 and played just four games as a rookie before he was cut at the start of his sophomore season. He spent three months in Buffalo, where his younger brother Sammy is a star receiver.

When Jim Schwartz became the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, Watkins was moved to safety. He quickly asserted himself as the first option off the bench at that position.

And just like McLeod and Jenkins, he’s a safety with a history and knowledge of every position in the secondary.

“He’s kind of our Tyrann Mathieu a little bit as far as being able to play safety, being able to play nickel, being able to play corner, being able to play all those positions,” cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “A swiss-army knife if you want to call it that. For him, it’s just about continuing to get reps, continuing to be confident.”

Jenkins, McLeod and Watkins are so interchangeable, Watkins joked that sometimes they get confused because they forget which position they’re playing. According to McLeod, there haven’t been any communication issues between him at Watkins when Jenkins moves down into his role as the nickel corner.

Watkins still thinks about his time in Buffalo, but he also thinks he’s a much better player now than he was before he went there.

“Just more confident player, I would say,” Watkins said. “My coaches believe in me. My teammates believe in me. Now, I’m just confident and relaxed when I go out and play, making plays, doing what I did in college. I think I’m a much better player than before.”