Eagles Wake-Up Call: Matthews’ Role In 2015

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

Today’s question comes from reader Tom, who writes from Sydney, Australia:

Hey fellas, there has been a fair amount of (deserved) criticism directed at Chip Kelly’s: A.) Use of Riley Cooper and B.) Lack of use of Zach Ertz.

Is it possible that Chip realizes in 2015 that his best base personnel combination is moving Matthews into Riley Cooper’s spot and moving Ertz into Matthews’ spot in the slot?

First of all, having a reader chime in from Australia is awesome, so thanks for taking the time, Tom.

I think the answer here boils down to two things:

1. Does Kelly plan on moving Matthews outside?
2. Could the Eagles use more ’12’ personnel in 2015?

Let’s attack the first question. On the day Matthews was drafted, Kelly immediately said the Eagles’ vision for him was to play the slot. I always thought that was interesting. Normally, Kelly says stuff like, “I don’t know what his role’s gonna be. We haven’t even gotten him out there on the practice field yet.” But Kelly knew exactly how he wanted to use Matthews from the get-go.

Per Pro Football Focus, 92.4 percent of the routes Matthews ran in 2014 came out of the slot. He was targeted from the slot 94 times, second to only Green Bay’s Randall Cobb. And Matthews’ 64 catches out of the slot was also behind only Cobb. Overall, the rookie had a tremendous debut season with 67 grabs for 872 yards and eight touchdowns.

I think it makes a lot of sense to have him over for Cooper on the outside. Overall, Matthews played 65 percent of the offensive snaps. Why not play him outside in 2-WR sets and move him into the slot whenever necessary in 3- and 4-WR sets? Given his measurables and his intangibles, I see no reason why Matthews would be unable to handle an expanded role.

As for Ertz, 293 of his yards came out of the slot. That was ninth-most among tight ends. He’s able to use his size against safeties and his athleticism/route-running against linebackers. Frequent B247 readers know I thought Ertz should have been on the field a lot more in 2014 (he played 50.3 percent of the snaps).

So to answer your question, Tom, yes, I think your plan makes sense – to a degree. The Eagles will likely still primarily be an ’11’ personnel team, but Ertz should take some snaps away from Brent Celek in 2015. When they’re in ’12’ personnel, I think it makes plenty of sense to have Matthews replace Cooper. And when they have three receivers, Matthews can move to the slot with Josh Huff and Cooper splitting time on the outside (this is assuming, of course, that Jeremy Maclin re-signs).

The Eagles had a lot of turnover with their pass-catchers in 2014. After they make their moves in the coming months, this will be a conversation worth revisiting.

Your question can be the topic of the morning post. Simply leave one in the comments section, on Twitter (@Tim_McManus and @SheilKapadia), via e-mail (tmcmanus@phillymag.com and skapadia@phillymag.com) or on Facebook. We’ll choose one each day and answer it.

We’ll go through the questions once a month and randomly select a reader for a free Birds 24/7 t-shirt.


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Zach Berman of the Inquirer talked to Drew Brees about Darren Sproles’ first Pro Bowl berth:

“I think they should add a position in the Pro Bowl and just call it the ‘all-purpose player,’ ” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “. . . Yes, they’re labeled as a certain position, but they do so much more. He’s one of those guys. If there was an all-purpose-player position, and had been over the last 10 years, he probably would have made eight or nine out of 10 of those.”

Other players agreed with Brees’ suggestion, but Sproles does not see it as much of a consolation.

“They’ll probably put that in when I’m done playing,” he said. “They need to put it in, though.”

Geoff Mosher of CSN Philly talked to Delaware TE Nick Boyle about Celek and the Eagles:

“I think we have some basic similarities,” said Boyle, who finished the game with two receptions for 31 yards. “[Devine] is an awesome coach and we have a lot of similarities with the Eagles and especially with the vertical routes. It’s cool to be able to kind of think you ran part of an NFL offense on the college level.”

Could Boyle fit in Kelly’s offense?

“I definitely think I could fit,” he said. “I could fit anywhere. If you want me to block, that’s what I think I could do well. I think I’m versatile. I could block and I could be a threat in the pass game.”


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