Eagles

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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The area where JJ Arcega-Whiteside is showing some potential

The area where JJ Arcega-Whiteside is showing some potential

For a second-round pick, it’s fair to say that JJ Arcega-Whiteside’s rookie season hasn’t been a resounding success to this point. 

So it’s definitely notable that his two biggest catches of the season have come on off-schedule plays. 

“That’s kind of like backyard football,” Arcega-Whiteside said this week. “Ain’t no real way to coach it or train for it. It’s just like, broken play, get open. There’s no technique or nothing. It’s just get open. I’ve just been lucky that Carson has found me and I was in the right place at the right time. Hopefully, we can get some more going forward.” 

For whatever reason, it seems like the rookie is better in those situations right now. Maybe it’s because of the NFL learning curve or because these are the situations where thinking is completely removed from the equation. Just go out there and make a play. 

It’s encouraging to see his playmaking ability, even when it hasn’t come as much on the initial play calls. At least we can see that he has it in him. 

Arcega-Whiteside caught a 29-yard pass on an off-schedule play in the fourth quarter of the Patriots game. And then on Sunday in Miami, his first NFL touchdown came on a 15-yarder on a broken play. 

The touchdown came with 13 seconds left in the first half against the Dolphins. It was 3rd-and-goal from the 15, which is a difficult situation to convert. In fact, NFL offenses have gotten touchdowns on just 2 of 13 such opportunities this year. 

“He's been at the right place at the right time,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. “The play there at the end of the half for the touchdown where he's inside releasing there and then he is working with Carson as Carson scrambles out there to the right, and then he's able to get out of the grass above the DB and come back and fight for the ball was a really good play by JJ and Carson.”

As Wentz escapes the pocket, you can see the rookie lock eyes with him. He’s about to take one more step toward the sideline and cut back inside, avoiding the defender that had tight coverage on him. Wentz puts it on him. 

Arcega-Whiteside and Wentz haven’t played a ton together, so it’s impressive that they’re able to connect on these types of plays. The receiver has to understand where the quarterback is going to throw it and the quarterback has to trust that the receiver is thinking the same thing. 

“We talk about it,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “It’s like, ‘ideally, we want this guy to do this or this guy to do this.’ But at the end of the day, just get open. Come back to the quarterback, be friendly and play ball.”

That’s usually the main coaching point for receivers in these off-schedule situations: Be quarterback friendly, which means give him a target, give him an opportunity to get the ball to you. 

That’s exactly what Arcega-Whiteside also did in the fourth quarter against the Patriots a couple weeks ago. He found an open spot in the field where Wentz threw it and came back to get the ball. 

 

What makes Arcega-Whiteside good in these situations?  

It’s pretty simple. 

“Just his ability to keep working,” Wentz said. “JJ does a great job of it.” 

The Eagles have struggled to find consistent plays from their receivers this year, so the fact that their second-round pick had trouble getting on the field at first and still has just six catches for 101 yards isn’t great. But Arcega-Whiteside and Wentz will be together for a least a couple more years after 2019. 

And these plays are certainly a silver lining. 

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Eagles Injury Update: Derek Barnett, Nelson Agholor, Kamu Grugier-Hill miss practice again

Eagles Injury Update: Derek Barnett, Nelson Agholor, Kamu Grugier-Hill miss practice again

For the second straight day, the Eagles were without three key players at practice. 

Derek Barnett (ankle), Kamu Grugier-Hill (concussion) and Nelson Agholor (knee) all missed Friday’s session after also missing Thursday. 

It’s rare for players to miss the first two practice days of the week and play that weekend. 

Barnett, it seemed, hurt his ankle during the loss to the Dolphins but was able to finish the game, playing 50 snaps. This season, Barnett is second on the team in sacks with 4 1/2 and has played more snaps (78 percent) than any other defensive lineman. 

The only other defensive players to play more than him this season are Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. 

If Barnett can’t play on Monday, it’s likely Vinny Curry and Josh Sweat will see more playing time and perhaps Genard Avery will see a few more snaps. Maybe even Daeshon Hall or Shareef Miller might get to play a bit. 

Agholor has been dealing with his knee injury since the Patriots game. He missed the game against Seattle, but returned last week to play 63 snaps against the Dolphins. Last week, Agholor was limited in practice the first two days of the week and was not given a game status. 

If Agholor can’t play, Greg Ward could perhaps have a bigger role on Monday night. 

Meanwhile, Grugier-Hill didn’t report concussion symptoms until Thursday and was then placed into the NFL’s concussion protocol. Based on the timing of all that, it seems like a long shot that he’ll be able to play on Monday night. 

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