Matthews Working Hard to Become More than a One-Trick Pony
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The move from Chip Kelly to Doug Pederson invigorated a lot of players in the Eagles' locker room, perhaps none more so than Jordan Matthews, who had been pigeonholed as strictly a slot receiver in Kelly's offensive scheme.
Because Pederson is more of a formational play caller who will try to take advantage of potential matchups from week to week, Matthews was excited earlier this spring about the potential to move out of the slot at times.
And that was the original plan coming from the Eagles' first-year head coach.
"I think he can play outside," Pederson said when talking about his most productive receiver back in March. "I'm going to look at him outside as we go through this spring. With his skill set, I think he can play both (inside and outside)."
However, as the offseason work progressed Pederson began to come to the same conclusion that Kelly had, namely that Matthews' skill set is best utilized on the inside.
"Jordan, again, he's been good on the outside," Pederson said in early June before pivoting. "(But) he's better inside, because he's got that big body and he knows how to sort of use it in space. One thing he can do, particularly in tight areas, is separate from man-to-man type coverages. That's one thing we've seen this spring from the slot position. But again, he's a position-versatile guy that you can move around."
The caveat means the slot is not going to be the exclusive home of Matthews but it's evident that it remains his main job description, although the Vanderbilt product is intent on changing that line of thinking.
The main issue with Matthews outside the numbers is straight-line speed, something you need to generate separation against what will be the best cover corners on the opposition each and every week.
While the third-year receiver is never going to be the 4.4 guy who scares the safety over the top, Matthews has been hard at work training with Body Creations, Inc. in his native Alabama in order to improve his explosion off the line of scrimmage.
That, along with improved route running, is the key to turning into a more versatile player who can move all over the field and become the true No. 1 receiver the Eagles desperately need.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen