Eagles Wake-Up Call: Matthews Breaks Out
While talking about Jordan Matthews at his postgame press conference Monday night, Mark Sanchez joked that he didn’t want too pump up the rookie too much because “he’ll get a big head and his hat won’t fit.”
There were no signs of an inflated ego as Matthews faced the large crowd of reporters surrounding his locker stall, though, and his green Eagles cap with the black brim seemed to fit just fine. He had just busted out on Monday Night Football, snaring seven balls for 138 yards and a pair of touchdowns to help his team improve to 7-2. How did it feel?
“I felt like I was Jeremy Maclin,” said Matthews, drawing a big smile out of No. 18 a couple stalls down. “At the same time, you have to put it behind you. Like I said, I have a bunch of great guys ahead of me who show me how to be a professional. If you take too much time looking at the stats and drinking the Kool-Aid, you lose your appetite. I just try to put it behind me and move forward.”
But just a moment for the stats: Matthews now has 39 catches for 451 yards and five touchdowns on the season. He joined Maclin as the only Eagles rookie receiver with at least 130 yards and two scores in the same game.
Given that many first-year receivers struggle out of the gate, is there something about this system that is helping him thrive?
“We had a genius make it up, so that definitely helps,” said Matthews of his head coach. “The main thing is with my skill set, I’m good at getting where I have to go quick. A lot of times in this offense you have to work on releases and breaking guys down but the main thing Coach Kelly is about is go, go, go. You make a mistake, pick it up and you’ve got to keep going because it’s all about speed and tempo and getting the other team tired. That’s why I practice the way I do, that’s why I make sure I run my hardest during practice so I can continue to keep my pace and help the offense move forward.”
Matthews said tempo was the key to his first touchdown, a 13-yarder from Sanchez early in the second quarter.
“I don’t think they were set up. We were able to get moving quick and Mark found me coming across and was able to hit me.”
Matthews racked up 74 yards alone on that drive. His previous high for yards in a game was 59. Coincidentally or not, his breakout performance came with his training camp quarterback throwing to him once again.
“Of course we had something going in camp,” said Matthews. “After practice, I made sure I got extra reps with him. I knew that if I wanted to break into the lineup, I had to look good with the second team first. That was definitely a point of emphasis for me back then. We continue to have a great relationship.”
Chip Kelly said that they felt going in that they could take advantage of some matchups inside, which is a big reason why Matthews was targeted as much as he was. To his credit, the rookie won a good amount of his one-on-ones and ended up having a big day on a big stage.
“Number one, he’s a great talent,” said Sanchez, putting his concerns about big heads to the side, “and that’s almost a prerequisite to get to this level. But he works. He works really hard and he’s a competitor. He wants the ball and he fights for the ball.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Here are our observations from the Birds’ blowout of the Panthers 45-21.
Sanchez proved that he was capable of taking over the Eagles’ offense without skipping a beat.
Surprisingly, Earl Wolff was inactive for Monday night’s game against Carolina.
Sanchez talks about how Kelly helps his quarterback with pre-snap details.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Rich Hofmann of the Daily News believes the win over the Panthers proves that the Birds are ready for the Packers:
The rout was on and the mind wandered, just as it had the night before in front of the television. Sunday night, it was the Packers. Monday night, it was the Eagles. And now the splendid collision is upon us.
This night was the setup, just as the Packers’ bludgeoning of the Bears had been. This night was the time when the Eagles’ cornerbacks finally got their interceptions, when their defense was best described with an adjective one degree beyond voracious, and when Mark Sanchez ran the offense proficiently in his first start in a couple of years.
The Eagles demolished the Carolina Panthers, 45-21, and told the world that they were ready for Sunday afternoon in Lambeau — just as the Packers had done the night before with their 55-14 beatdown of the Bears. The winner of that one, with all apologies to the Cardinals, Cowboys, Lions and Seahawks, will become the Unofficial Team to Beat in the NFC. There is a reason that FOX protected this game from the clutches of the flexers at NBC and moved it to 4:25 pm, and that is it.
Reuben Frank on how Darren Sproles is being used.
I’m a little baffled why Darren Sproles hasn’t been more of a weapon on offense. Sproles had just one carry Monday night — an eight-yard gain, and he has just four carries in two games since coming back from his MCL sprain. He had 11 carries on opening day and has just 25 in seven games since — fewer than four per game. Yet he’s averaging 6.6 yards per carry…
Sproles has been magnificent returning punts. He joined DeSean Jackson and Brian Westbrook Monday night as only the third Eagle in franchise history with two punt return touchdowns in a season, and only Jackson (with four) has more career punt return TDs in Eagles history than Sproles. And he’s only played eight games in an Eagles uniform. So he’s making a huge impact. I’d just like to see the Eagles get back to having him make an impact on offense.
Sheil’s Zone Read is coming your way. Kelly speaks at 1.