Highlighting the thorn in the side of Eagles receiving core

After a huge rookie season, fans were expecting Jordan Matthews to rapidly emerge as one of the brightest prospects in the NFL in his second season. With a new Quarterback at the helm and a revamped receiving core, Matthews moved up to the teams number one receiver by default but is yet to turn in a good performance. Is Jordan Matthews under pressure or is it time for Bradford to start spreading the ball around much more evenly?

Matthews has struggled all season, there’s no doubt about it. From dropped passes to tipped passes, fumbles to dropped touchdown passes that High Schoolers should be making, for whatever reason the kid just can’t get a break. But for some reason, Bradford is insistent on searching out his number one receiver..to the point it’s perhaps hurting the team.

Jordan Matthews 36 56 384 10.7 1
Zach Ertz 19 33 207 10.9 0
Riley Cooper 11 23 205 18.6 2
Josh Huff 11 14 136 12.4 1
Miles Austin 7 15 133 19.0 1
Darren Sproles 17 27 131 7.7 0
DeMarco Murray 21 24 127 6.0 1
Nelson Agholor 8 17 105 13.1 0
Ryan Mathews 9 12 73 8.1 1
Brent Celek 5 6 60 12.0 2

Matthews has a staggering 23 more receptions than tight end Zach Ertz and 33 more than his nearest wideout Riley Cooper. He averages significantly less than every other receiver listed and it’s fair to say that if they had all caught 36 passes then their stats on average would be massively different. Cooper for instance, would have received for 477 yards with the same target/completion ratio based on averages. This tend continues on a game to game basis though, Matthews had 11 targets on Monday Night compared to Cooper’s 6 and Ertz’s 7. Cooper, Huff and Austin combined for 12 targets overall.

The problem almost goes hand in hand with Bradford’s issue of locking on to his first read. We have seen it time after time this season where Bradford fails to survey the field and locks on to his first receiver..who is often the teams number one. This was hugely successful in pre-season and we actually wrote an article demonstrating the positives that kind of trust and vision can have..but there’s also a downside. If that receiver is constantly covered man to man or even worse is dropping pass after pass then you have to make some other reads..and it’s on those reads where Bradford tends to overthrow or make a bad decision.

Another issue is that as Bradford consistently searches out an inconsistent pair of hands, other receivers often find themselves wide open when Bradford makes a short throw over the middle. We especially saw this with Nelson Agholor against the New York Jets. The USC standout was beating Revis off the line time after time and yet barely touched the ball. We saw it again on Monday Night too.

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This play was early on in the game and saw an incomplete pass to Matthews who as you can see (circled in red) was not only suffering right coverage but TWO other passing lanes were carved open by Bradford, one to DeMarco Murray who could have picked up a few yards on the outside and one to Riley Cooper who was crossing over the middle with a big gap between himself and the two receivers behind. But Bradford locked onto his first option and threw to Matthews, which resulted in an incompletion.

An incompletion to Matthews in the game against the Redskins also backs this point up. Instead of circling the other options, we circled the space where Bradford could position a ball as opposed to where he actually threw it. Again, Matthews is in double coverage therefore releasing Cooper down the seam but Bradford went straight to his number one guy for an incompletion.

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The same scenario has happened frequently in recent weeks and it’s a combination of Matthews simply not being as consistent as predicted and Bradford/Kelly’s negligence to realise that there are more efficient receivers behind who simply aren’t getting targets. Josh Huff for instance has been fantastic so far this season and hasn’t really been utilised since his first receiving touchdown.

The blame can’t be placed fully on the second year receiver. Yes he has been inconsistent and sure he has made some worrying errors but if Bradford is continuing to search out his number one receiver, 23 more times than Cooper for instance fully knowing that his completion rate is below 65% then you have to expect inconsistencies.

Matthews has to improve his ball security and is apparently working on the JUGS machine before every practice to do so. But the problem is that Bradford isn’t targeting the hot hand but going for the hot route..which is often Matthews. If the Eagles receiving core is going to improve statistically then they need to bounce off their Quarterback. If Bradford is neglecting open men to throw to Matthews time after time then the team are only going to progress as far as Jordan Matthews does.

Either the coaching staff/ Sam Bradford need to look at ways to spread the ball around much more evenly, or Jordan Matthews needs to have a breakout game and soon, because until that happens it will be history repeating itself week after week.