Jordan Matthews

Imagine if Carson Wentz had real wide receivers?

Imagine if Carson Wentz had real wide receivers?

There’s ageless Larry Fitzgerald making a ridiculous one-handed catch on a 4th-and-5 against the Bucs. There’s Golden Tate taking a short pass from Daniel Jones and running 61 yards through traffic for a touchdown against the Jets. There’s Amari Cooper in the third quarter against the Vikings catching a pass five yards out of bounds while somehow dragging his feet in bounds … then doing it again in the end zone a few minutes later.

It was impossible to watch football Sunday without watching incredible catch after incredible catch and wondering what it would be like if just one of those guys was an Eagle.

Eagles wideouts can’t make the routine catches. Other teams have guys who make impossible ones.

Watching other teams play football during the bye week really reinforced what we already knew: The Eagles’ wideouts are the worst in the league.

They don’t make plays.

And it really makes you appreciate what Carson Wentz has been able to do despite being hamstrung by this horribly underachieving group.

It wasn’t a coincidence that Donovan McNabb had — by far — his best NFL year in his one full season with T.O. 

Wentz had one game with DeSean Jackson and chucked two 50-yard TDs, completed 72 percent of his passes and passed for 313 yards.

For Wentz to be playing at the level he is — 15 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 63 percent completion percentage — is remarkable considering that since Week 2, the Eagles have been trotting out a group of wide receivers that includes a one-time Pro Bowler who suddenly looks old and slow and is struggling terribly to catch the most routine passes, a $9.4 million former first-round pick who keeps whiffing on deep balls and has been a non-factor for two months, a third wideout who hasn’t had a catch since September and a second-round pick who hasn’t had a catch since earlier in September.

Imagine trying to play quarterback in the NFL without wide receivers?

Imagine what Wentz’s numbers would look like if Nelly had caught a couple of those easy deep balls, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside brought in that potential game-winner against the Lions and Alshon Jeffery had just caught half the balls he's dropped?

The Eagles would likely be 7-2 and he’d have Pro Bowl numbers.

Now just imagine if he had Amari Cooper or Larry Fitz or even Tate. Or any legit NFL receiver. Or a couple of them. 

He has none of them.

Wentz has made the passing game work to some extent with a Pro Bowl tight end, a rapidly improving rookie running back and a capable second tight end as his main weapons.

But the most impressive thing he’s done is play within himself, not get frustrated — at least not outwardly — and stay positive throughout this nightmarish stretch by his wide receivers.

That’s leadership, and anybody who’s watched the Eagles play football this year knows that Wentz is doing absolutely the best he can with what he has.

You never see him shaking his head or slamming his helmet down on the sideline after a bad drop. You never see him barking at one of his receivers after another hapless third down when nobody's open. You never see him lose his cool when a perfect deep ball flies through someone's hands.

The Eagles are 5-4 coming out of the bye week with a wide receiver crew that, since Jackson went down with what turned out to be a season-ending injury, has averaged — as a group — 89 yards per game. Over the last six weeks, that number is down to 72.

That’s all of them combined.

Eagles wide receivers don’t have a touchdown catch longer than six yards over the last six games. They don't have any catches of 40 yards since Week 2.

Through it all, Wentz remains efficient, positive and confident.

People always joke about how bad James Thrash and Todd Pinkston were. Thrash averaged 55 catches, 675 yards and 5 TDs in three seasons as an Eagle. Pinkston from 2001 through 2004 had 19 catches of at least 40 yards — third-most in the NFL behind T.O. and Randy Moss.

Wentz is essentially out there playing with a wide receiving crew that’s significantly worse than Thrash and Pinkston, and he has the Eagles in a virtual tie for first place in the NFC, and that tells you everything you need to know about the season Carson Wentz is having.

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Jordan Matthews is officially back and it can’t hurt

Jordan Matthews is officially back and it can’t hurt

Now it’s official. Like … officially official. 

The Eagles on Monday morning announced they signed Jordan Matthews, a move that was reported last week while the team was on its bye. This will be Matthews’ third stint in Philadelphia. 

No, Matthews won’t be the Eagles’ offensive savior. 

But he can’t hurt. 

All season, the Eagles have suffered from ineffective receiver play, so having a somewhat dependable option whom Carson Wentz trusts is a good thing. They can even do that business-man celebratory handshake they like so much. 

The problem here is that Matthews isn’t a speedy receiver. That’s the element the Eagles are missing with DeSean Jackson on IR. But at least he can catch a pass, something that hasn’t been a given for the group already here. 

The Eagles have five receivers on their roster right now: Matthews, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. 

We’ll see soon enough how the Eagles work Matthews back into the offense. 

Matthews, 27, was with the 49ers earlier this season, but had been a free agent since he was released on Oct. 26. Just like in 2018, the Eagles are calling on him. 

In 2018, Matthews played 14 games with the Eagles and had 20 catches for 300 yards and two touchdowns. He had that 37-yard touchdown catch in the Saints playoff game, too. 

Matthews has certainly had a strange career. He was a second-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2014 and became a very productive receiver in Philadelphia. In his first three NFL seasons, Matthews caught 225 passes for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns. But the Eagles shipped him to Buffalo in the Ronald Darby deal, a move that freed up the slot position for Nelson Agholor. 

After three consecutive seasons with at least 800 receiving yards (2014-16), Matthews has just 582 since. 

But maybe he can still help an offense that could really use it. It can’t hurt to try.

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The 5 biggest questions about the Eagles after the bye week

The 5 biggest questions about the Eagles after the bye week

The bye week is over and we’re about to really learn about this team.

The Eagles (5-4) return to work this week as they prepare for the shorter second half of their season. It all begins on Sunday at home against the Patriots.

Even after a rough start, the Eagles still have a chance to make it to the playoffs, but it won’t be easy.

These are the five biggest questions facing them:

1. Will receiver play get better?

DeSean Jackson is on IR after having core muscle surgery, so after weeks of everyone just waiting on his return, we now know that isn’t happening. Without Jackson, the Eagles’ receivers have been awful. Dropped passes, fumbles, overall lack of production. The only difference in talent is that Jordan Matthews is back and simply adding Matthews won’t be enough to turn everything around. The Eagles need Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor to play better. There’s just no way around that at this point. Both have been major disappointments this season.

2. Will the pass rush continue to get there?

In the last few games, we’ve really seen Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham come on. And now Tim Jernigan is back and Derek Barnett has quietly been very solid for much of the year. But this defensive line needs to be the backbone of the team. Sure, Jim Schwartz will mix in blitzes here and there, but the front four needs to provide most of the Eagles’ pass rush. If Cox, Graham, Barnett, Jernigan and the rotational players can get consistent pressure, it would go a long way.

3. Is the secondary really better?

The returns of Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby have seemed to solidify a secondary that was in a bad state not that long ago. But we’ve seen Mills and Darby have their good and bad moments in the last few years, so let’s see if their promising play continues. A starting trio of Mills-Darby-Avonte Maddox is probably the best the Eagles have to offer. A few coverage sacks could help that pass rush, too.

4. Late-season magic from Doug and Carson?  

In each of the last two years, it’s been Doug Pederson and Nick Foles taking the Eagles down the stretch. Now it’s time to see if the franchise quarterback can do it. Right or wrong, the credit or blame goes to Pederson and Carson Wentz. We’ve seen Wentz play at an All-Pro level and we’ve seen Pederson be one of the best offensive play-callers in the NFL. But can they both hit their strides to get the Eagles in the playoffs in 2019?

5. Will Eagles take care of business in their division?

Four of the Eagles’ last seven games are against NFC East opponents. While the game against the Cowboys at home in Week 16 could very well decide the winner of a playoff spot, the Eagles need to clean up against the Giants and Redskins too. The Eagles need to win both against the Giants and their one against the Redskins; just take care of business. If the Eagles sweep their four division games, I like their chances of getting into the playoffs.

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