Eagles Wake-Up Call: Matthews’ Mindset
Jordan Matthews has sought and received counsel both in-house and out. He’s spoken with Mike Quick and Harold Carmichael. Approached veteran teammates for guidance on how to deal with adversity. And this past Monday, got a bit of advice during a phone call with one of his old running mates, Jeremy Maclin, who has been keeping tabs on the young wideout.
“Just keep playing, keep working,” said Matthews of Maclin’s message. “I think sometimes when you have struggles, when you’re in the midst of it, it’s so easy to forget that you’re not the first person ever to not be playing well, and you’re definitely not the last,” he said. “I can either be upset or I can work my butt off to try and fix the situation.
“There’s only two options, it’s only black or white, there’s no gray area…either you’re going to play hard, you’re going to get over stuff, or you’re not going to.”
Right now, what Matthews is trying to get over is a bad case of the drops. He has been charged with six through seven games, including a pair against the Panthers his last time out. He’s certainly not alone — the issue has ripped through the receiving corps like a virus — but as the top receiver of the group, his struggles stand out.
“Too many drops,” said Chip Kelly when asked about his takeaways from bye-week evaluations. “That is the first thing with everybody when we came out of there: we dropped too many balls. I think we were last in the league in drops or first in the league in drops, however you look at it. There were a lot of things that could have extended drives for us and kept us on the field. We really affected our third-down efficiency in terms of holding onto the football and we’ve got to do a better job catching the football.”
Matthews has reportedly been working through a hand injury, which helps explain part in part why he has had a hard time holding onto the ball consistently. “No,” he said, when asked if injury has affected his performance. “Just have to catch the ball. Point, blank, period.”
The 23-year-old wasn’t about to make excuses. But he did acknowledge that his on-field relationship with Sam Bradford remains a work-in-progress, which could be another contributing factor.
“Honestly, it does help the longer you play with somebody,” said Matthews, who still leads the team with 39 catches for 398 yards. “I think the one [QB] I played with the longest [in college] was Jordan Rodgers — Aaron Rodgers‘ younger brother — and you could definitely see how well we worked together.
“It’s football, [the play] could go anywhere, but you know [with familiarity], ‘OK I’m lined up, this ball is coming to me right here’ so I can take my time or I can do this or that to get open, and it just helps. I think that’s where we’re going, that’s where we’re getting to. It takes time.”
This is not the first time Matthews has had to adjust to a new QB — he remembers working with at least six in college, and is on his third in the pros — or was forced to work out of a funk. The way to escape it, he believes, is to avoid making drastic changes and stay the course.
“Going back to college, my sophomore year there were growing pains,” he recalled. “As the season went on I played better and then literally, I don’t know what happened, but the light (snaps fingers) clicked. When I go back and look at that, I never stopped working, stopped being positive. That’s kind of the same mindset you have to have in the NFL I think. Stay positive, keep working, and you’ll be out of it.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
The Eagles were nearly back at full health Tuesday after taking the bye week and resting up.
A comprehensive look around the stumbling, bumbling NFC East before Week 9 begins.
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WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Les Bowen of the Daily News counts himself among the few who believe Sam Bradford deserves more time to prove himself.
Now, seven games into the 2015 season, it seems a decent chunk of the fan base, and some media folk, wouldn’t mind moving on yet again.
There is a term for teams that reach for a new quarterback every season, or more often than that. We call such teams “the Cleveland Browns.”
If you watched last season’s stretch drive, and you really want to see Mark Sanchez quarterbacking the Eagles again, you need to take your game-used Bradley Fletcher uniform pants (still available at Philadelphiaeagles.com for $99.99), pull them over your head, and breathe deeply until the dizziness passes.
ESPN’s Phil Sheridan asks if Bradford’s throwing habits, his penchant for tossing dangerous balls, has led to the Eagles’ habit of dropping his passes.
Bradford’s knack for throwing what my colleague Bob Ford calls “hospital balls” (because that’s where they land the unlucky receiver) is well documented. Local Philadelphia website Crossing Broad posted this montage of errant Bradford passes. Those are from the Eagles’ victory over the Jets.
It isn’t easy for quarterbacks and receivers to develop trust in each other. The quarterback learns which players will make tough catches. The receivers learn whether the quarterback tends to lead them toward the open field, where there is room to run, or toward a three-car pileup.
So far this season, it does not seem like Eagles receivers do Bradford many favors on passes that aren’t perfectly thrown. Some of the dropped passes have turned into interceptions. None of that helps Bradford to develop trust in his receivers.
Billy Davis and Pat Shurmur will address the media beginning at 10:30.