Jordan Matthews: The “X”-Factor
The term "X-Factor" is defined as a variable in a given situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome. In sports, we often talk about the X-Factor of a particular game, team, or season. The X-Factor could be a stat, a style of play, or in the case of the Eagles, a particular player.
When Nick Foles went down with a cracked collarbone in last Sunday's win at Houston, he was replaced by Mark Sanchez, who took over the quarterback duties. Sanchez's first play, right out of the gate, was a 52 yard bomb to Jeremy Maclin down the middle of the field, setting up the Eagles in the redzone. It was a gutsy play call by Chip Kelly, one that surprised Sanchez, the Texans, and Eagles fans everywhere. The more significant throw to start the Mark Sanchez era however, was his 11yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews. That was Sanchez's first regular season touchdown pass as an Eagle, and a connection that I believe we'll hear often in the second half of this season.
Jordan Matthews has been productive over the first eight games of his NFL career, but even he'd be the first to tell you, that he hasn't even scratched the surface yet. Lauded for his work ethic, professionalism, size, and ability, Matthews has been a nice weapon in the slot for this Eagles offense, hauling in 32 receptions for 313 yards, and three touchdowns. I expect those numbers to dramatically increase over the final eight games of the regular season, with Sanchez now under center.
One of the biggest story lines from this past training camp and preseason, was the play of Mark Sanchez and the connection he developed with the Eagles rookie receiver. Working extensively with the second string unit, both Sanchez and Matthews got a chance to develop a strong rapport and chemistry, which was evident in the preseason. Matthews was targeted eight times by Sanchez during his limited reps this preseason, catching seven passes for 77 yards. Thats why it was no surprise to see the two hook up for a touchdown once Sanchez entered the game, something the two have done very often during practice. With Jeremy Maclin proving this season he's a true number one receiver, the Eagles have been waiting for Riley Cooper to follow up last years gaudy numbers with another productive year, unfortunately that hasn't been the case. This offense needs that complimentary wide receiver, and given their relationship on the field, I think Matthews might be more primed to grow into that role during the final eight games of the season.
Every quarterback has their go-to guy, their safety valve. A receiver they trust to pick up those tough yards on third down, and climb up and snag a back corner touchdown while in the redzone. Jordan Matthews will take on that role for Sanchez. For the first time in his NFL career, Sanchez has more offensive weapons than he knows what to do with. I don't doubt that Maclin will continue on his record setting pace, Cooper will shine on certain possessions, Celek and Ertz will continue to create miss matches in the secondary, and the offense will continue to run through McCoy and Sproles, but I strongly believe that as the second half of the Eagles season unfolds, Matthews will take on a more significant role. The chemistry between the two on the field is obvious, and I think we'll continue to see that blossom, as the Eagles move forward with Sanchez under center. Jordan Matthews will be the "X-Factor" for Mark Sanchez. A nightmare for any defense in the slot given his size and ability, and a match-up that I expect Sanchez to exploit quite often.