CHICAGO — Despite reports to the contrary, Jordan Matthews is mortal.
The rookie wide receiver took the field for the first time as a professional Friday night in Chicago and looked like a player taking the field for the first time as professional. He finished with four catches for 14 yards (3.5 average) on seven targets and had a pair of drops.
“He was inconsistent,” said Chip Kelly. “There was a ball on the sideline he could have caught. I don’t know if he was pressing, but there were some inconsistencies there. Sometimes it’s the first time for guys in the bright lights so they can have a chance to play that out of their system and calm down.”
The player that the audience saw on the television screen Friday differed from the one we have seen in practice day in and day out this summer. Rarely has he let the ball hit the ground during training camp. On this night, he was less sure-handed.
“I mean, it’s really just concentration,” said Matthews. “You just have to bring the ball in. I try to go out each day in practice like it’s a game anyway. As fast as we practice, you come out here and the game kind of slows down for you. It’s concentration. It just goes to show you that you’ve got a lot of stuff to work on so that’s my mindset going back into training next week.”
The Eagles have worked Matthews almost exclusively in the slot and have kept him with the second team by and large despite the absence of Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin and Jeff Maehl in practice in recent days. He ran with the reserves against Chicago as well but did not stand out like he so often has this summer.
His play has warranted attention and has often been the lead story in what has been a training camp without many sizzling headlines. The expectations grew. Now they’ll go down some before inevitably rising back up again. The first-year receiver is trying not to ride that wave.
“There’s always going to be a little bit of hoopla around draft picks when they come in. It’s going to get even bigger as the draft gets even more popular. It’s something that I knew was definitely going to be there coming in,” he said. “At the same time I always try and make sure that I block it out and continue to focus on things I can actually control — that’s going out and practicing hard and making sure I’m a great teammate. That’s what I’m really focused on doing. The rest of the stuff I try to block it out. It’s really not that important, anyway.”