Eagles Bring Back Jordan Matthews for Third Tour
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The Eagles went the familiar route when it came to replacing DeSean Jackson on the roster, signing Jordan Matthews for a third tour of duty with the organization.
Matthews worked out for Philadelphia on Tuesday and the deal was agreed to on Wednesday and first reported by the NFL Network.
A second-round pick by the Eagles in 2014, Matthews was a high-volume target starting in the Chip Kelly era, snaring 225 receptions for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns over three seasons before he and a draft pick were sent to the Buffalo Bills in the 2017 preseason for cornerback Ronald Darby.
Injuries have been an issue since for Matthews but he returned to Philadelphia last season and snared 20 receptions for 300 yards in a backup role. He then signed with San Francisco as a free agent in the offseason and was released at the end of training camp before being brought back by the 49ers and released again last month.
Jackson underwent surgery for a core-muscle injury on Tuesday morning and was placed on injured reserve later in the day, effectively ending his regular season.
The rest of the Eagles' receiving corps -- Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside -- has been a disappointment to be kind.
For the Eagles to really improve down the stretch at the position the help has to come from within, particularly from underachieving veterans Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, and missing in action rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.
"We've got to take a look at it, obviously. It's real," coach Doug Pederson said about the position Monday. "We're around the halfway point of our season, and we've got time this week to make these decisions."
The decision being Matthews isn't going to stretch the field as Jackson could but a veteran player who is very close to Carson Wentz and understands all three receiving positions in the Philadelphia offense is about all you can hope for in November after the trade deadline.
At the very least Matthews should serve as an upgrade over Hollins, a special-teams player miscast as a starting NFL WR due to the abdomen injury of Jackson and the inability [or unwillingless] of the coaching staff to ramp up Arcega-Whiteside's cross-training to the Z position.
"I think I mentioned last week that, even in Mack's case, when you're the sixth, possibly seventh guy in the progression or in the scheme of things, sometimes it's hard to get the ball going in that direction," Pederson explained when asked about Hollins' lack of production.
Hollins hasn't caught a pass since September and recently hasn't even been targeted.
"We go in thinking the Alshon’s and DeSean’s and Nelly’s and the tight ends, backs and stuff like that, and we ask a lot of those other guys, too, in the run game and they do some great things there," Pederson said. The ball is going to find, usually, the open guy, and find the completion that way, and we just have to continue to work."
The real question moving forward is Matthews and his limited ceiling a better option than taking the training wheels off Arcega-Whiteside after the bye?
"I think number one is the mental side of the offense," Pederson said when asked about Arcega-Whiteside's limited role to this point. "How much do they know? How much can they take from the classroom to the practice field and then does it translate to the game? Then what they do in practice. In young players cases, like J.J. being behind Alshon for instance, he's kind of learning from Alshon. He's doing everything right. He's practicing hard.
"And sometimes it's just hard to get on the field because of that and one of the things that we like about J.J. is his versatility, the fact that he can play really all three spots and move him around. So being able to do that, obviously allows us to find a position or at least find some snaps for guys like that, and I think moving forward, that's something -- that's kind of what this week is for, for us, as a staff on offense, is to see how we can maximize our potential that way."
In addition to any tweak involving Matthews for Arcega-Whiteside, Jeffery needs to bounce back from a difficult start to the season which partially stems from calf and ankle injuries, and turn around what is shaping up as his worst professional campaign while Agholor needs to fight through his latest crisis of confidence to at least became more of a contributor.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen