Eagles

Eagles' downfield passing attack is sorely missing DeSean Jackson

Eagles' downfield passing attack is sorely missing DeSean Jackson

When the Eagles brought back DeSean Jackson this offseason, we all talked about how he was going to be the downfield speed threat the Eagles had so desperately been lacking in recent years. We all thought he was going to add a key element to the Eagles’ offense. 

And he did. For one game. 

In the opener, Jackson went off, catching two deep ball touchdowns and showing off the kind of speed defenses have to respect. Then he got hurt. 

Since early in Week 2, the Eagles have really missed him. 

“Yeah, you miss his explosiveness, obviously, the threat to stretch a defense,” Doug Pederson said earlier this week. “His ability to get open.

“Yeah, you miss that, yet at the same time, though, we can't make excuses for it. We have to help him get healthy and get back on the field and then play with the guys we have.”

Jackson, 32, is still rehabbing from that abdominal injury. And while he’s apparently getting better, the Eagles are about to enter the toughest stretch of the season and Jackson’s health is a question mark. For now, it seems unlikely he’ll be back in time for this Sunday’s game in Minnesota. 

Carson Wentz has completed six passes of 30-plus yards this season. The first two went to Jackson in Week 1. Nelson Agholor caught one in Week 2. Since then, the last three passes of 30-plus yards have gone to rookie running back Miles Sanders. 

And the Eagles have completed just one 20-yard pass to their receivers in the last two games. They won both games, but they did it in spite of downfield passing. 

Look at the difference between Wentz’s attempts the last two weeks compared to Week 1 with Jackson in the lineup. 

On Sunday against the lowly Jets, Wentz attempted just two passes that traveled farther than 20 yards in the air. Both went to Agholor. On one, the defense was charged with an illegal contact. And on the other, Agholor was clearly contacted illegally by the defense but it wasn’t called. The Eagles challenged for defensive pass interference, but lost the challenge. 

That was offensive coordinator Mike Groh’s answer when asked about how the Eagles can get their deep game working without Jackson. 

“I think we got behind the defense twice the other day,” Groh said. “We had illegal contact on both plays, which really kind of negated those opportunities. We will continue to try to look for those, and when we get them, hopefully we hit them. We felt really good about those two plays. Unfortunately, we know how it played out.”

Sure, maybe if the Eagles connected on both of those plays, we’re not talking about this. But they didn’t. And they didn’t try any more. 

The real problem without Jackson is the guys who are filling in for him aren’t getting it done. Agholor is starting to look like he did early in his career. He’s dropped several balls, including what should have been a game-winner in Atlanta. And Mack Hollins hasn’t done nearly enough either. 

Meanwhile, rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside can’t get on the field. That’s because he’s Alshon Jeffery’s backup, but there were receivers drafted after him who had the element of speed who would help right now. That’s not to make any declarative statements about his career — that would be crazy; it’s too early — but that draft pick isn’t helping right now. 

In the last two wins, the Eagles have gotten by without Jackson because of their ability to run the ball and their use of 12 personnel (two tight ends). But they’re just missing something without Jackson in the lineup. 

And it doesn’t look like they’ll have it back until he returns. 



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With no need to acclimate, Jordan Matthews ready to produce immediately for Eagles

With no need to acclimate, Jordan Matthews ready to produce immediately for Eagles

Jordan Matthews knows the quarterback. He knows the coach. He knows the offense. He knows the building. He knows the city. 

The only difference is that Matthews has a new locker this time. He was happy to get a stall next to his good friend Zach Ertz. 

After officially signing with the Eagles again on Monday morning, the 27-year-old receiver is now in his third stint with the team that drafted him in the second round out of Vanderbilt back in 2014. 

“There’s not much of that process of acclimating,” Matthews said on Monday afternoon. “Every other place that I’ve gone, it feels like there’s a good two to three weeks where you don’t even know where the bathroom is. 

“But I was able to come back here and it’s just like back at home. See everybody, ‘what’s up?’ ‘What’s up?’ Back to work.”

That’s good news for the Eagles because they certainly don’t have time to wait for Matthews to get acclimated. 

They need him to produce. 

And they need him to produce immediately. 

“The guy has made a lot of plays for the Eagles over the years,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. “He has excellent football intelligence. He knows our system. He has familiarity there. I think there's great comfort with him in the huddle. There's rapport and chemistry with he and Carson (Wentz), which is important, so certainly nice to get him back.”

On the 53-man roster, Matthews replaced DeSean Jackson, who had one monster game before an abdominal injury derailed his Eagles reunion. Jackson is now on Injured Reserve after having core muscle surgery. 

Of course, no one is expecting Matthews to come in and all of a sudden replace the best deep threat in the NFL. That’s not realistic. That’s not his game. But Matthews has been a productive receiver in the NFL before and he’s been a productive receiver in Philadelphia. The Eagles are just hoping he can give a small boost to a position group that has struggled mightily in 2019 without Jackson. 

Step in and produce? 

Matthews says that’s no problem. 

“I feel like it’s been that way every single time,” he said. “I feel like when I got drafted here, that was one thing I heard: that we need production from the receiver position. Came in, worked hard and played. And then even last year, I was here a year ago at this time. … That was the same thing. It was like, ‘we need you to come in and immediately produce’ and that’s just what I do. When opportunities are there, I just try to work hard and make plays. The moment’s not too big for me. I just go out and play.”

In 14 games (three starts) with the Eagles last season, Matthews caught 20 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a 37-yard touchdown in the Saints playoff game. 

But after the playoff loss, Matthews signed with the 49ers, who cut him, brought him back and cut him again in late October. Aside from the Eagles, Matthews has now spent time with the Bills, Patriots and 49ers, but he feels like Philly is his NFL home. He was thrilled when the Eagles brought him back again. 

“It was so crazy. I felt like it was kind of unprecedented,” he said. “I heard of guys going back to a team that drafted them once. But twice? It was just crazy. I was just texting all the guys, like, ‘guys, it’s happening!’ It was like a kid in a candy store, man. It was like getting drafted all over again. I was just so happy. I can’t even explain. Picked up my son, ran around like he was Simba. It was a good feeling, man.”

Groh said the Eagles will probably use Matthews as an outside and a slot receiver. It would certainly make sense for Matthews to take some playing time away from Mack Hollins, who has gone five straight games without a catch. 

Even if Matthews can just give the Eagles a slight boost, bringing him back will be worth it. And maybe everyone else will be as happy about the move as he was. 



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Eagle Eye podcast: A huge extension for Brandon Brooks

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Eagle Eye podcast: A huge extension for Brandon Brooks

On the latest Eagle Eye podcast presented by Nissan, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro react to Brandon Brooks’ four-year extension worth over $56 million. 

Brooks will go down as one of the best free agent pickups in Eagles history. Jordan Matthews is back yet again. The receivers could definitely use some help. The secondary looks a little more solid. 

The Eagles find themselves in a good position after the bye.

• Brandon Brooks gets an extension
• Jordan Matthews x3 
• Yes, we’re talking about WRs again 
• The division is there for the taking 
• A look at the secondary down the stretch
• Everyone have a good bye week? 

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