Jordan Matthews

Jordan Matthews out with chip fracture in sternum

Jordan Matthews out with chip fracture in sternum

Jordan Matthews is off to a rough start in Buffalo.

According to the Bills, Matthews suffered a chip fracture in his sternum during his first practice on Sunday and is listed as week to week. That obviously means Matthews won't play on Thursday night against the Eagles at the Linc.

Matthews was able to finish practice but was then not made available to reporters in Buffalo. 

When the injury occurred is uncertain; per the Associated Press, he fell hard along the sideline during a team drill while attempting to make a leaping catch in one-on-one coverage with cornerback Shareece Wright.

It's unclear if Matthews will even travel with the Bills to Philadelphia this week for the game.

Meanwhile, Ronald Darby, the Eagles' return in the trade, practiced for the first time in an Eagles uniform at the NovaCare Complex on Sunday (see story). He looked pretty good too.

Jordan Matthews suffers chest injury in 1st practice with Bills

Jordan Matthews suffers chest injury in 1st practice with Bills

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Jordan Matthews' first chance to fill Sammy Watkins' starting job with the Buffalo Bills ended with the newly acquired receiver sustaining a chest injury.

Matthews finished the two-hour practice on Sunday before being escorted off the field by a trainer. The Bills were unable to provide an update on the nature or severity of the injury because Matthews was still being evaluated.

It's unclear when Matthews might have been hurt, though he did fall hard along the sideline while attempting to make a leaping catch in one-on-one coverage with cornerback Shareece Wright during a team drill.

It was not the type of debut the Bills were counting upon in returning to training camp since completing two blockbuster trades on Friday.

Buffalo gave up starting cornerback Ronald Darby to acquire Matthews and a third-round draft pick from the Eagles. The deal coincided with Buffalo trading Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams for cornerback E.J. Gaines and a second-round pick.

As important as acquiring the two picks were for a team looking ahead to rebuilding through the draft, Matthews was a key addition in addressing Buffalo's more immediate needs.

Though not considered as dynamic of a deep threat as Watkins, Matthews has been consistent in his first three seasons with the Eagles. He was Philadelphia's most productive receiver with 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns, and became just the fifth NFL player to top 65 catches and 800 yards in each of his first three seasons.

Matthews saw playing time with both the first- and second-string offenses among what's now become an entirely retooled group of receivers, including Anquan Boldin who signed last week.

Before practice, coach Sean McDermott was already projecting seeing both Matthews and Gaines play in a preseason game at Philadelphia on Thursday.

Gaines was surprised in learning of the trade, and welcomed the chance to prove himself after the Rams deemed him expendable.

"Just being somewhere that I feel wanted," Gaines said following practice. "Being somewhere that I feel like expects me to come in and make plays and knows what I can do on the football field, I'm just excited."

A sixth-round pick out of Missouri, Gaines won the starting job as a rookie in 2014, before missing the next season with a foot injury. He started 10 games last season before his job security was placed in question after the Rams acquired Kayvon Webster in the offseason.

In Buffalo, he'll compete with Wright, first-round draft pick Tre'Davious White and Kevon Seymour for the two starting jobs on what will be a completely revamped secondary following Darby's departure. Buffalo also features two new starting safeties in free-agent additions Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer.

In other developments, McDermott continued expressing concern with starting left tackle Cordy Glenn missing practice due to a sore left foot that has bothered him the entire offseason.

Without going into detail, McDermott would only say, "we're hopeful," when asked if Glenn will be ready for the start of the season. He also acknowledged the team will have to develop a contingency plan in the event Glenn isn't ready.

Backup Seantrel Henderson won't be available because he will miss the first five games to complete serving a 10-game suspension issued last year for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. That leaves third-year player Michael Ola and rookie third-round draft pick Dion Dawkins competing for the primary backup spot.

Glenn was held out of Buffalo's preseason-opening 17-10 loss to Minnesota and did not practice the following day. He also missed two practices 10 days ago after traveling to Charlotte, North Carolina, to have his foot examined by a specialist.

Notes
Safety Colt Anderson was cleared for practice and activated from the physically unable to perform list because of a foot injury. ... Rookie QB Nathan Peterman was rewarded for his preseason game performance by practicing with the second-string offense ahead of veteran backup T.J. Yates. Though crediting Peterman for going 13 of 25 for 112 yards and a TD against the Vikings, McDermott said he's still evaluating as to whether to change the depth chart.

Eagles left with plenty of options in slot because of 'design of the offense'

Eagles left with plenty of options in slot because of 'design of the offense'

After sending Jordan Matthews to the Bills in a trade, the Eagles could take a committee approach at slot receiver in 2017.

It's been widely assumed Nelson Agholor would step into that vacated slot role — he took first-team reps there at practice Saturday. The third-year wideout also had a strong offseason and filled in during spring sessions while Matthews was out with knee tendinitis.

"That’s coach’s decision as far as who’s going to step up, but Nelson’s done some great things," Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz said. "Obviously, he can fly. He can roll in the slot and put some pressure on defenses."

While Agholor will no doubt continue to see plenty of work in the slot, the job isn't necessarily going to be his exclusively moving forward.

"We move so many guys around in that position," coach Doug Pederson said. "It's just kind of by design of the offense."

Matthews served as the Eagles' primary slot receiver since he was selected in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft, but lined up there less last season than in years past. That was in large part because Pederson was much more imaginative than his predecessor, Chip Kelly, mixing up personnel and formations with far greater frequency.

Under Pederson, the Eagles have been more likely to deploy running backs and tight ends from the slot. Darren Sproles, Donnel Pumphrey, Zach Ertz and Trey Burton will all take a fair number of snaps in there.

Agholor may be facing some competition in the receiver room as well. After a breakout performance in the preseason opener, Mack Hollins was also getting a look in the slot Saturday.

"We'll continue to develop him and work him in multiple spots," Pederson said. "One thing about Mack is he's a smart guy. He picks up the offense well and he understands coverage and leverage and things like that."

Hollins seems like a receiver more in the mold of Matthews. Listed at 6-foot-4, 221 pounds, he's far bigger and stronger than most of the nickel cornerbacks who would be trying to cover him on the inside.

For now, Hollins is continuing to work primarily on the outside, but his size is something the Eagles could try to take advantage of.

"This game is a bunch of matchups," Hollins said. "So if my best matchup is inside against a smaller nickel, then that’s where I’ll be, and if it’s outside vs. a smaller corner, that’s where I’ll be."

The Eagles also like the fact Agholor brings a different skill set to the position than Matthews did. Matthews' size was an asset in the middle of the field, but he lacked explosion. Agholor has the potential to become the consistent deep threat down the seam that the offense has been lacking.

“Without a doubt, they’re different skill sets," Wentz said. "He’s more of a burner, whereas J-Matt was more of that savvy possession guy underneath.

"Obviously, Jordan made plenty of plays down the field as well, they just bring a different element down the field as well."

A first-round draft pick in 2015, Agholor has been a massive disappointment through two seasons in the league, with 59 receptions for 648 yards and 3 touchdowns in 28 games. 

For what it's worth, Agholor has appeared to make strides in his development while working from the slot this year. The 24-year-old looks comfortable, and it may very well be the role he is best suited to play in the NFL.

Agholor played slot his junior season at USC when he racked up 104 receptions for 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns.

"Staying inside, you have to have a little bit more spatial awareness because there are bodies in there, a lot going on," Agholor said. "Your awareness and your understanding of zones has to be at a higher level. Outside, you kind of have a one-on-one even in some zones."

Even last season, Matthews was still the primary slot but shared the responsibility. After running 532 routes in the slot in 2015, he was down to 329 with Pederson at the helm, according to Pro Football Focus. Injuries also limited Matthews to 14 games, but that doesn't account for a difference of over 200 plays.

No matter how the plan shakes out, Agholor is fine with divvying up the snaps.

"We want to put defenses in a bind," Agholor said. "We want to find mismatches and move players around so that we keep them guessing."