Eagles

Jordan Matthews wants Eagles' offense to rent a cabin in North Dakota

Jordan Matthews wants Eagles' offense to rent a cabin in North Dakota

Nobody was happy to be cleaning out their locker at the NovaCare Complex on Monday, least of all Jordan Matthews. At the same time, there's reason to be optimistic about the Eagles' future, which the wide receiver believes will only serve as motivation in the offseason.

The main reason for that optimism was the performance of Carson Wentz this season. Now that the Eagles finally have their franchise quarterback in place, Matthews wants his teammates to continue developing their chemistry on and off the field.

And while it's not unusual for offensive players to huddle up in the offseason, work on some things and have a little fun together — the Eagles have met in California in recent years — Matthews wants to try something a little different this year. He thinks everybody should take a trip to North Dakota, where Wentz calls home.

"I want to go to the Fargodome and throw," Matthews said. "I think that place is pretty cool. We can go to downtown Fargo.

"We always go to California. It's cool, but it's real expensive and guys are all across the city, whereas I'm like, 'Bro, we can get like one cabin out there.' I know they have cabins, and that's it, a lot of space. So let's get a cabin, we'll go throw, and then we'll look at each other the rest of the day, because there's nothing else to do. Go somewhere we have no choice but to get closer."

Wentz was a little skeptical of a trip to Fargo, but he definitely wants to get together with Matthews and the offense.

"He wants to go to Fargo, North Dakota, real bad," Wentz said. "I told him ‘I could take you right now, but you might never want to go back.’ It’s pretty cold. He wants to go up there, so we’ll see what we do in the offseason. But it’ll be fun. Whatever we do, we have to get together and do something."

As for activities, Matthews has those planned, too. He knows Wentz is an avid hunter and says he's willing to give it a shot.

"I don't know if I'm going to handle the gun the first couple times, but I'm going to be like the binoculars," Matthews said to laughter.

"We bond in different ways. I go to Carson and he's like, 'Here are my guns.' I'm like, 'Oh, well here's my car.' It's kind of different, but it's going to be fun."

Matthews revealed another benefit to the Eagles' identifying and committing to a young core that includes himself, Wentz and tight end Zach Ertz. They're all going to be calling the area home, which means they don't necessarily have to come up with elaborate plans to get together.

They'll be just a phone call and a short drive away.

"That's definitely something we're all looking forward to is most of it being here," Matthews said. "Philly is a place where, I think lots of times in the offseason, guys like to spread out. But when you have a core group of guys that's close, we want to find a way to be as close to each other as much as possible.

"Carson is going to be here, Zach got his residence here, I have a place here and in Nashville, so we're thinking definitely for the summer and probably near the end of March, beginning of April, those times, really spending more time here working out together, building that chemistry and growing."

In addition to strengthening the rapport between Wentz and his receivers, Matthews knows the Eagles are going to continue building and adding talent in the offseason.

Matthews led all Eagles wideouts with 73 receptions, 804 yards and three touchdowns. The next-closest player on the team was Dorial Green-Beckham with 36 catches, 392 yards and two touchdowns and Nelson Agholor with an almost identical 36 catches, 365 yards and two scores.

Clearly, receiver was an area of weakness for the Eagles, and they'll be looking for help in the offseason. Matthews is fine with that, as long as they continue striving for the goal of becoming the best unit in the NFC East.

"We have a guy at quarterback who can sling the ball around, so we just want to make sure that the pieces that are here get better," Matthews said.

"And the pieces that come in complement what we have in the room to actually take us to an elite level and not just being a group of receivers that go out there and play, but one of the more dynamic receiving corps that can go out and compete. Especially in this division because we see the corps around this division, and we need to start competing with those guys."

Matthews was collecting his belongings having just completed his third season in the NFL, and his third season without making an appearance in the playoffs, and he made it known he wasn't happy about it. At the same time, he's confident the Eagles are on to something.

It's all about giving Wentz the tools he needs to lead this team.

"We got the guy," Matthews said. "We just need to continue to build around him."

Darren Sproles can still help Eagles as long as Doug Pederson doesn't get carried away

Darren Sproles can still help Eagles as long as Doug Pederson doesn't get carried away

You probably know the reasons why it didn’t make sense to bring Darren Sproles back like they did on Friday evening. He’s too old. The team needs to get younger. They can’t rely on him to stay healthy. 

How’s this for one reason the Eagles were right to bring him back? 

He can help. 

Yeah, I know Sproles is 36. I know he’s played just nine regular-season games in the last two years. I know he had a minor hamstring injury that turned out to be a not-so-minor hamstring injury last year. 

I also know that the Eagles are better today than they were yesterday. Because as long as Doug Pederson doesn’t get carried way, Sproles can still help the Eagles in 2019. 

That is a key point, though. During his three years as head coach, we’ve seen Pederson at times rely on Sproles a little more than he probably should. If he does that this time around, it might not help. But if the Eagles can settle Sproles into a role where he’s a punt returner and a change-of-pace guy on offense (primarily as a pass-catching threat), this can definitely work. 

Pederson loves Sproles. He hasn’t tried to hide that. At the owners meetings this offseason, when asked about Sproles and the possibility of a return for one more season, Pederson said openly, “I would love to have Darren back.” 

Now that it has happened, it’s up to Pederson to not run his favorite veteran Swiss Army knife into the ground. 

And because the Eagles will enter this season with a former Pro Bowler in Jordan Howard, a second-round pick in Miles Sanders and a Super Bowl hero in Corey Clement also on the roster, it should suppress the temptation to over-play Sproles. 

Sproles will be the Eagles’ punt returner. He can play on third downs. He can be used as a utility-type receiver hybrid on offense. 

I’m thinking somewhere in the range of 8-10 touches max per game is about right.  

Nick Foles got an overwhelming amount of credit for helping the Eagles push their way into the playoffs last season, but Sproles deserves a ton of credit, too. After many had written him off when his severe hamstring injury lingered, Sproles came back in early December and gave the Eagles a spark that helped propel them into the postseason. 

In the last five regular-season games last year, Sproles had 110 rushing yards, 138 receiving yards and three offensive touchdowns. 

The Eagles were 5-1 with him in the regular season (4-1 down the stretch) in 2018 and 6-2 overall. 

And without him, they probably don’t win that Dec. 23 game at home against the Texans. In that one, Sproles became the oldest Eagle ever to have over 100 yards from scrimmage in a game. 

Sproles comes into this season just 162 all-purpose yards behind Tim Brown for fifth in NFL history. If he can stay healthy, he should have no problem easily overtaking Brown in 2019. 

And he might just help the Eagles make another run in the process. 

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More on the Eagles

Will Zach Ertz be a Hall of Famer?

Will Zach Ertz be a Hall of Famer?

Zach Ertz is the latest in a series of stories looking at the Hall of Fame chances of current or recent Eagles who are still active in the NFL

Friday, July 19: Fletcher Cox
Today: Zach Ertz
Sunday, July 21: DeSean Jackson
Monday, July 22: Jason Kelce
Tuesday, July 23: LeSean McCoy
Wednesday, July 24: Jason Peters
Thursday, July 25: Darren Sproles

Numbers: Has 437 catches for 4,827 yards and 29 touchdowns in his first six seasons.

Postseason numbers: Caught 31 passes for 316 yards and two TDs in six career playoff games, including the game-winning touchdown catch in Super Bowl LII against the Patriots.

Honors: Ertz made his first two Pro Bowls in 2017 and 2018.

Favorite stat: Ertz is the only player in Super Bowl history to catch a fourth-down pass on a game-winning fourth-quarter drive.

Records and rankings 

• Ertz set an NFL record in 2018 with 116 catches, breaking the mark of 110 set in 2012 by Jason Witten.

• Ertz’s 437 receptions are most in NFL history by a tight end in his first six seasons. He broke the record of 434 set from 2010 through 2016 by Jimmy Graham.

• Ertz’s 116 catches broke the Eagles single-season record of 90 set in 2007 by Brian Westbrook.

• Ertz already ranks third in Eagles history in receptions, behind only Harold Carmichael (589) and Pete Retzlaff (452).

• He doesn’t turn 29 until November, but Ertz already ranks 31st in NFL history in career receptions by a tight end. He’s only 153 out of the top 10. At his current rate — 5.8 catches per game since becoming a full-time starter in 2015 — that’s only 26 games away.

Analysis 

Maybe it’s silly to project Ertz as a Hall of Famer before his 29th birthday, but if he can stay healthy and keep stringing together the type of seasons he has been, it’s going to happen.

Since becoming a full-time starter four years ago, Ertz has averaged 86 catches, 914 yards and 5 ½ touchdowns.

If he keeps up that pace for six more years and plays until he’s 34, which most top tight ends are able to do, he’ll have 953 catches, 10,311 yards and 62 TDs after the 2024 season.

Not to mention a game-winning late fourth-quarter TD catch in a Super Bowl.

If he does that, nobody is going to keep him out of Canton.

Verdict: Will be a Hall of Famer.

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