Eagles

Eagles

There's no veteran to show them the way. No older guy who's seen it all to look to for advice. Nobody who’s been around forever to share his wisdom and stories and knowledge.
 
The Eagles’ oldest wide receiver is Josh Huff, who's 24. The Eagles’ most experienced wide receiver is Jordan Matthews, who's started 23 games. The Eagles’ average wide receiver? He’s 23 years old.
 
There’s always a chance the Eagles will add a veteran wide receiver before opening day a week from Sunday against the Browns. 
 
But right now? They have one of the youngest wide receiver crews in modern NFL history.
 
Matthews and Huff are 24. Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham  and Paul Turner are 23. David Watford, Cayleb Jones and Marcus Johnson are all 22 or 23.
 
Of this group, only Matthews has more than 35 career receptions.
 
When the Eagles released Rueben Randle and Chris Givens earlier this week, it left them without a wide receiver older than 24.
 
“It’s crazy,” Matthews said. “My rookie year I was the youngest dude on the whole team. Now, me and Josh are the oldest. It’s kind of different but I like it.
 
“I like situations where everybody feels like they’ve got to go get it. Where everybody feels like they have to work. When guys get to year nine, year 10, you see that, like, ‘OK, I got this.’ And that works for some people. But me personally? I like rooms where everybody feels like, ‘I’ve got to go get it.’”
 
Randle is only 25 and Givens 26, and each entered the NFL in 2012. So they’re not exactly nine- or 10-year veterans. But Matthews’ point is that he likes a wide receiver room where everybody is hungry and nobody is resting on their laurels.

 

This group has no real laurels to rest on.
 
Matthews has the 10th-most receptions in NFL history after two years, but Huff (35 catches, three TDs), Agholor (23 catches, one TD) and Green-Beckham (32 catches, four TDs) have a combined 90 career receptions and eight TDs.
 
The other receivers still on the roster — Turner, Jones, Johnson and Watford — are all undrafted rookie free agents.
 
“Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff, those are the two leaders in the room right now, but we have some young guys who are ready to step up and ready to go and obviously Howie (Roseman) and Doug (Pederson) and Joe (Douglas) and all those guys that make the decisions up there feel really comfortable with who we have," backup quarterback Chase Daniel said.
 
“We’re excited about it because all those young receivers, they want to learn, they really do, and they’re putting in the time and the work not just during practice but after practice as well and in meetings.
 
“Fastest way to gain experience is to play, and they just need more playing time and once they get more comfortable with Sam (Bradford) and me and and Carson (Wentz) and just everything out there and the scheme, they’re going to be just fine.”
 
Maybe.
 
Huff has certainly shown some flashes, including three catches for 60 yards and a rushing touchdown against the Colts Saturday night. Agholor is a first-round pick. Green-Beckham caught a touchdown in Indianapolis and led all NFL rookie receivers with 17 yards per catch last year.
 
But it’s incredibly rare for any NFL team to go into a season without a wide receiver older than 24.
 
If the Eagles don’t add a veteran receiver, they will become only the sixth team since 1970 without a wide receiver older than 24. Three of those teams were in the 1970s – the 1972 Falcons and 1978 and 1979 Jets.
 
The only teams in the last 35 years that played without a wideout 25 or older were the 1988 Chargers and 2000 Bengals.
 
So this is the youngest group in the NFL in 16 years.
 
“Looking back, being behind Jeremy Maclin and being behind Riley Cooper and being behind Jordan last year, being on the bench and just watching, I know what to expect now,” Huff said.
 
“I know what our group of receivers need in order to get where we want to go. We are young, and me and Jordan have to be the leaders of the group to take this group to where we want to go.
 
“It just falls on me and Jordan right now and we’re going to go out each and every day and perform the way we know how to perform and bring these guys along with us.”
 
The last time the Eagles went into a season without a wide receiver at least 25 years old was 1964.
 
There’s always been a Maclin, a Jason Avant, a James Thrash, an Irving Fryar, a Mike Quick.
 
Not always the best receiver on the team, but a guy who fills that leadership role, leads by example, always has time to advise and guide the younger guys and has a wealth of experience to draw from.
 
Right now, that role belongs to Matthews, who just turned 24 in July.
 
“Going to Vanderbilt, you can play as hard as you want to but you still get no respect, so you stop playing for public opinion and you start just going out there and playing for the guy next to you and to get respect from your opponents and your teammates ultimately,” Matthews said.
 
“So I like a room like that. I feel like we’ve got young guys and it’s, ‘OK, DGB, you can’t take a day off. Nelson you can’t take a day off. Josh, you can’t take a day off.’ And me, I definitely can’t take a day off. So when you have that type of room, you can say really, ‘Forget the outside, let’s hone in on what’s going on in here, and let’s go out and make plays.’”
 
Green-Beckham, like Huff, like Agholor, is kind of an unknown. You can’t help see his boundless potential. He’s big, he can run, he’s got great hands.
 
But nobody really knows what to expect from him after the Titans gave up on him so quickly.
 
“It is a young group, but that’s good because that means [we] have a lot of room to develop,” Green-Beckham said.
 
“But we can’t look at it as a young group. We have to go out there and make plays. And if we don’t have that older guy, whatever we know as football players, we’ve got to help each other out.
 
“We’re all smart. If we see anything new, see anything, a missed assignment, we hold each other accountable. ‘Hey, I ain’t trying to get on you but you can do this better, you can do that better.’ That’s the room we have, and I like that.”
 
Huff knows how much outsiders doubt this group, and he understands it. He's been a disappointment. Agholor has been a disappointment. DGB was a disappointment with the Titans.
 
But he also believes the Eagles can win with this group.

 
 

“Every play’s not going to be perfect,” Huff said. “You’re not going to catch every ball, and that’s just part of the game and you’ve got to understand that and you can’t beat yourself about that.
 
“But what I know is that this group of receivers that we have, at any given time of the game, we can make plays, and I truly, wholeheartedly believe that. And we’ve just got to get it out of everybody in the group and not just Jordan. We know we can make plays but everybody has to believe they can make plays so it comes down to confidence and just being aggressive when the ball is in the air.
 
“See the ball, catch the ball, and if you don’t, just move on to the next play.”
 
Matthews is only 24 but carries himself like a veteran and can’t help but lead the people around him.
 
He doesn’t try to do it, it just happens organically.
 
But Matthews said he'll have to focus more than ever on leadership and guidance now that he’s the only established receiver on the team.
 
“I take it upon myself to be the leader of the group but at the same time I’m not the type of guy who’s going to be calling people out,” he said. “I don’t raise my voice around anybody. That’s just not the way I go about things.
 
“I have to go out and practice hard every single day, always have my clipboard out, and then just be around the guys when they need it. That’s the role I take, and I know Josh has been trying to do the same thing, just working on his consistency in the field and in the meeting room.
 
“It’s definitely a different dynamic. We don’t have that Jeremy Maclin there who’s seven years in. We just don’t have that. But I do like what we’ve got. I like the fact that everybody has to go out and every day and feel like, ‘We gotta go get it.’
 
“The second somebody thinks that they got it? All of us can get humbled real quick. So don’t even get to that point. Let’s just keep knocking on the door and continue to work on being successful.”