There have been plenty of highs and lows in what’s been a tumultuous Super Bowl defense, but one of the brightest spots so far is also one of the most underrated. Ladies and gentlemen, you’re bearing witness to the Jordan Matthews revenge tour without even realizing.
In a situation of dire need, the Eagles found a wideout who not only has familiarity with the offense, but the coach, quarterback and their leading tight end, Zach Ertz. Matthews was the man who upon learning the team had drafted Carson Wentz, scheduled for the pair to hit OTA’s a week early in order to build that relationship. Matthews was the perfect piece to slot into a bewildering offensive puzzle…but his road home was anything but easy.
Prior to shockingly being traded to the Bills, Matthews had totaled the most yards out of the slot of any wideout since 2014. The 6’3, 212 lbs, wideout wasn’t just instrumental in the rise of Carson Wentz, but his impact stretched backed to the Chip Kelly era, where he put up 8 touchdowns in each. In the rookie season of a franchise quarterback, Matthews built a rapport with Carson Wentz that went beyond football, to the point where the wideout had actually been given one of Carson’s dog’s puppies. He scored 3 touchdowns that year to go with 804 yards and although that was a little down in comparison to 2015, there were an abundance of changes and a severe lack of playmakers, with Wentz directing traffic over the middle to his two security blankets, Ertz and Matthews.
The trade that sent Matthews to Buffalo took place on the last breath before a new season and it was later revealed by Matthews himself that the Eagles medical staff gave two ‘really bad diagnoses’ that ended up causing him significant setbacks.
“I think the worst and most frustrating thing about the whole situation was, when I got to Buffalo, I was still dealing with the things that I had to get surgery on,” Matthews. “But I had two really bad diagnoses on the knee and the ankle, so going into the trade, I thought they were both things that were going to heal on their own. But once I got around Buffalo’s doctors, they got me in touch with the right people and then I got really good feedback.
“We ended up finding out there were other things that I was dealing with, so the thumb was definitely upsetting, the chest was upsetting. But what’s crazy was when they ended up doing my surgery on my knee, they actually told me that, ‘Man, it’s a good thing that you didn’t play more games, you didn’t practice more, because you needed to come here and get this procedure done as soon as possible.’ So, if anything, it was a blessing in disguise. I don’t regret any of the times that happen. I think it honestly has just made me a stronger person, it’s going to make me a better player.”
After a predictably slower year in Buffalo, Matthews found himself being picked up by the New England Patriots, where once again, injuries would hold him back, with the receiver being placed on IR after a hamstring injury. The Patriots had originally planned to bring Matthews back when he returned. A lot can change in a small window however and Matthews was cut once more…which led him back home.
It didn’t take long for Matthews to slot back into things either. After getting his feet wet in week 3, Matthews caught a 56-yard bomb against the Colts and ran it in for his first touchdown of the season. As the offense continued to struggle to find its identity, the role of Jordan Matthews became clouded. Would he strictly be a slot receiver behind Agholor or would he flex outside to the vacant WR2 spot?
We got our answer in week 8 when the Eagles travelled to London to beat the Jags at Wembley Stadium. Matthews was a third down machine and lined up all over the field. His large frame had always made him a target-friendly receiver, but Matthews seemed to have an extra layer of crispness to his route-running in and out of his breaks. He ended that day with 93 yards of receiving and would follow it up with 77 yards combined in his next two games on just 6 receptions. If there was a clutch situation where the Eagles needed a first down, there was a good chance Matthews would be on the field and playing a key role.
But then came the wildcard. The Golden Tate trade threw a spanner in the works as the Eagles suddenly had three ‘slot’ receivers and the struggle to find a consistent role for Tate began. But after just one target against the Giants, Matthews made his next one count as he hauled in a 4-yard TD in Monday Night’s win over the Saints.
Golden Tate may be dominating the snap count and target percentage, but Jordan Matthews is actually averaging a career-high in yards per reception (16.5) and has caught 17/24 balls thrown his way. The dreaded (and largely unfair) ‘drop’ criticism has ceased completely as Matthews continues to not only dominate the middle of the field, but prove himself as a receiver with a much higher ceiling.
Matthews has seen plenty of time outside this season and the Eagles are going to have to decide whether who of Agholor, Tate, or Matthews they want to pay at the end of this year, as it’s unlikely all three return. Matthews would easily be the cheapest option and his improved ability to gain separation, haul in contested catches and initiate blocks downfield may provide Howie Roseman with a very attractive budget option.
Considering that Matthews is seeing just a fraction of the playing time of his peers, to be producing at the level he is and as consistently he is, this can only be described as a revenge tour. His long-term future is on the line and Matthews is doing all he can to make sure he’s shining and proving he’s got plenty left to bring to the table…and it’s working.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports