Like him or not, Jordan Matthews came up huge in London

Like him or not, Jordan Matthews came up huge in London

LONDON — Jordan Matthews is healthy again and back in an Eagles uniform making plays. 

Which means another chance for Eagles fans to rip on the guy for no apparent reason.

He’s too slow, he’s too limited, he’s injury-prone. He’s heard it all. You’ve heard it too.

Guess what. Without Matthews, the Eagles don’t win Sunday.

Matthews, who re-joined the Eagles in Week 3, caught four passes for 93 yards in the Eagles’ 24-18 win over the Jaguars at Wembley Stadium.

Among his catches were a 31-yarder, a 13-yarder for a first down on 3rd-and-2 one play before the Wendell Smallwood touchdown, a 36-yarder to help set up the Zach Ertz touchdown and a sweet 13-yarder for a first down on the Eagles’ final drive to help run out the clock.

Should quiet his critics. At least for the time being.

But it won’t.

“I can go deep, I can run with the best of them,” he said after the game. “So I don’t really ever worry about that stuff. I just keep going and keep working.”

Matthews averaged 75 catches for 891 yards and 6½ touchdowns in his first three years for the Eagles before going to Buffalo in the Ronald Darby trade. He struggled through 10 injury-marred games with the Bills before resurfacing this summer with the Patriots, who released him on Aug. 1 after he hurt his hamstring.

Once he was healthy, it was a no-brainer for the Eagles to bring him back.

He caught a 56-yard touchdown against the Titans and had a couple first-down catches against the Giants, but Sunday in the win over the Jaguars was the best he’s looked in a long, long time.

“It’s just good to be 100 percent, that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “Waking up every single day putting your feet on the ground and just feeling good.”

Matthews’ 93 yards Sunday were his most in more than two years, since he had 114 against the Browns on opening day of 2016, Doug Pederson’s first game as a head coach and Carson Wentz’s first career game.

The thing I love about J-Matt is you can put him at (any position), he's going to get the job done,” Wentz said. “(And he does) all the stuff we ask our receivers to do blocking-wise. He can make plays, beat man coverage. We saw him do it a couple years ago here for a while. It was big for him to step up the way he did (Sunday). It was cool to have him be the leading receiver again. It's been a while.

Matthews has only 10 catches so far this year but they've gone for 200 yards, fourth-most on the team. Five of those catches have come on third down. In fact, Matthews is third on the team in third-down catches since he re-signed here, behind Alshon Jeffery (7) and Ertz (9).

“Jordan made some great plays on the ball, third-down catches,” Pederson said. “He's really strong with the football right now. Been able to elevate. He's really kind of fitting into what we're asking him to do.”

Matthews wasn’t here for the Super Bowl run, but in a way, it seems like he never left.

And don’t forget, he’s only 26. If he continues to contribute, he’s not going anywhere.

This really is like a new life for Matthews.

“There were only a couple plays that they put in that I didn’t know,” Matthews said. “So when I got back it was like, ‘OK, here’s Install 1,’ and I’m going through with coach (Gunter) Brewer and I was like, ‘OK, I remember all this.’ Next install?’

“And I think just the familiarity and the amazing guys in the locker room that I get to play with made the transition a lot easier. So I wouldn’t say (it’s) a second life, but I’m just really thankful and really blessed to be here.”

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Greg Ward is the receiver Malcolm Jenkins wanted all along

Greg Ward is the receiver Malcolm Jenkins wanted all along

While the Eagles were busy trying to cobble together a wide receiver corps with Mack Hollins and Jordan Matthews, Malcolm Jenkins was campaigning for somebody else to get a shot.

Greg Ward.

“I’ve been calling for him to get called up to the active roster since training camp,” Jenkins said Thursday.

Nobody listened.

Instead, Ward spent nine of the first 10 weeks of the season on the practice squad. The one week he was on the active roster, against the Lions, he only got two snaps on offense. 

Then it was back to the practice squad.

Once Ward finally landed on the 53-man roster for good and actually got a chance to play and the Eagles saw what he could do, the Eagles released both Hollins and Matthews in the span of nine days.

Hollins played 473 snaps and had 10 catches in 11 games. That's a catch every 47.3 snaps.

Matthews played 137 snaps and had four catches in two games. That's a catch every 34.3 snaps.

Ward has played 145 snaps in three games and already has 11 receptions. That's a catch every 13.2 snaps.

Ward's eight-yard catch in overtime Monday night got the Eagles down to the two-yard-line, setting up Carson Wentz's game-winning TD pass to Zach Ertz.

How did the Eagles not realize for 2 1/2 months that Ward was a better option than Hollins or Matthews?

It’s not like he’s new here. Ward was on the practice squad all year in 2017 and in training camp in 2018 as well before leading the ill-fated AAF in receiving.

Boston Scott, Josh Perkins and Ward, who were all on the practice squad for a good chunk of this season, had 15 catches for 140 yards (and 59 rushing yards and a TD) in the Eagles’ win over the Giants.

Hollins? Hasn't caught a pass since September. 

Matthews? He's back with the 49ers, who've already cut him twice this year (without a catch).

Scott, like Ward, was buried on the depth chart while the Eagles went out and got Jay Ajayi, who is averaging 3.0 yards on 10 carries. Not until Miles Sanders had to leave the game briefly Monday night did the Eagles finally let Scott play. And that was the last we saw of Ajayi.

On the one hand, it’s good that these practice squad guys are contributing because it shows that the Eagles at least liked them enough to sign them and keep them around.

But why they stuck with guys like Ajayi, Hollins and Matthews for so long before finally letting Scott, Perkins and Ward play remains a mystery.

How could they not tell they could play?

“Not necessarily surprised because we see it every day,” Jenkins said. “These are guys who make us better and challenge us. I’m just excited to see them, No. 1, have the opportunity but to take full advantage of it and really help us get a win. I don’t think we get the win without them. To see them get the opportunity, I’m definitely proud.

“It does create some energy when you see them make plays. When guys you expect to make plays make plays, it’s one thing. But all of a sudden you have Perkins and Boston and G. Ward making plays, it adds a little juice to the team.” 

You just have to wonder why it took so long for them to even get the opportunity to add a little juice to the team.

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Kamu Grugier-Hill admits to lying about concussion to stay in game

Kamu Grugier-Hill admits to lying about concussion to stay in game

Eagles linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill on Thursday admitted that when he suffered his concussion in Miami two weeks ago, he lied to medical personnel to stay in the game.

He told them he hurt his shoulder.

“I just basically lied to them,” Grugier-Hill said. “I thought it would just go away. Just didn’t really say anything about it. It got to the point where I really couldn’t lie to them anymore.”

The concussion happened on the first play from scrimmage in the game against the Dolphins, when the starting linebacker collided with receiver DeVante Parker. That means he played a total of 54 combined defensive and special teams snaps with a concussion that game.

Eventually, when the headaches didn’t subside, Grugier-Hill reported the concussion symptoms to trainers on Thursday, four days after the head shot. He was put in the NFL’s concussion protocol and missed the Giants game. He has since been cleared and will return to action in Washington this weekend.

Grugier-Hill, 25, said he had never had a concussion before and didn’t know exactly what it felt like. Last week, head coach Doug Pederson said the Eagles encourage all their players to report concussion symptoms and self police.

Does Grugier-Hil regret his decision?

“No,” he said. “I mean, I wish we would have at least got a win.”

There’s no questioning Grugier-Hill’s loyalty but lying to medical staff about a brain injury is nothing to be praised; it’s dangerous. But at least Grugier-Hill was honest about his decision — plenty of players aren’t.

And this certainly wasn’t the first time — nor will it be the last — that a player decides to stay in a game even though they know they might be concussed.

Back in 2015, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins admitted he played through more than an entire half against the Cowboys with a concussion. After eventually getting through the protocol, Jenkins said he felt “foggy” for the entire second half.

That’s the hole in the NFL’s concussion policy. The league has concussion spotters in the press box at every game and has made strides to prevent and detect these head injuries earlier, but players are still willing to put their long-term health on the line to stay in games. And Eagles medical personnel can’t treat a concussion they don’t know exists. It’s a hard problem to fix.

As far as the league has come, concussions are still far too normalized in the sport.

“I think it’s just part of the game,” Grugier-Hill said. “You get rocked a little bit every once in a while.”

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