Jordan Matthews: Eagles Have A ‘Family Feeling’
As Jordan Matthews walked around Sam Bradford’s house in Oklahoma last month, he noticed a few things: it was clean, it was huge, and the Heisman Trophy was just sitting out and about without a case.
“His house was crazy,” Matthews said. “I didn’t want to go home because I’m like, ‘This room that you put me in is bigger than my place in Nashville.’”
Matthews visited Bradford with Zach Ertz to work out together, but it wasn’t quite a business trip. The third-year receiver wanted to spend time off the field with his quarterback to strengthen their bond that he says is so important to winning.
He explained how strong relationships between players makes them more accountable to each other, and that translates to success on the field.
“Building that was so huge because I don’t think people put enough emphasis on it,” Matthews said. “Sometimes I think people like change just as much as winning, but at the end of the day, all change isn’t good. You look at the most consistent teams in this league, and they’re the ones that keep their guys.”
To Matthews, that translates not just to the rest of the team and the coaching staff, but to the front office as well. He noted how the Eagles’ slew of offseason contract extensions created a “family feeling” around the team, which he thinks is “huge to winning.”
He added that having a head coach who played not just in the NFL, but in Philadelphia, also contributes to that.
“Tony Dungy’s players used to always say that Tony Dungy didn’t have to yell a lot. He never had to to curse anybody out, but he’s the type of coach people wanted to win for. When (Pederson) has played here and coached, that’s what we’re hoping we can get to,” Matthews said. “We want to go out there and win for this guy.”
Matthews heaped similar praise on to Greg Lewis, the Eagles’ new wide receivers coach.
“It’s kind of like having your big cousin as a coach,” he said. “The first five minutes, he’s just going to bag on you. But then when it’s time for business, it’s time for business. I don’t think people can underestimate how much it means when somebody’s telling you something, and they’ve done it.
“Sometimes people would think, ‘No, if this is the coach and he knows, you have to listen to that, too. He’s the authority figure.’ But it’s just something about when you have a coach who’s played, who’s been in the Super Bowl, who’s caught a touchdown in the Super Bowl. He’s done things that none of us have done, and that’s the ultimate thing: get a chance to win the Super Bowl. Everybody holds him in high respect.”
Still, with a new coaching staff also comes much uncertainty, which the 23-year-old is still adjusting to. They have a new playbook to learn and new terminology, but Matthews referenced how having a “walking playbook” like Chase Daniel is helpful to have around because Daniel is helping his teammates get familiar with the offense.
Matthews also noted that the receivers will have less defined roles and compared it to musical chairs, so he’ll spend more time on the outside instead of just the slot. That means he’ll have more one-on-one opportunities and he won’t have to worry about maneuvering around a linebacker or safety immediately after the catch.
“I know it’s something that’s a big topic that people like to talk about but at the end of the day, my biggest thing is I’m just looking to being on the field more,” Matthews said, referencing how he came off of the field when the Eagles used a second tight end instead of a slot receiver.
“I’m the type of competitor to where, I always feel like, at some point, I can make a play. Obviously, I know there are areas I have to get better in and there are things I’m working on, but at the same time, that’s my inner confidence. I always feel like, ‘Man, I can’t be off this field because I feel like this might be my chance to bust this game open.’”
Matthews added, though, that playing inside helped him because he had to run more precise routes in confined areas to get open. He also said Ertz will be a “huge focal point” in the offense, and that he thinks it’ll be easier for the Eagles to take the top off of defenses with a slower pace so they can catch a breather in between plays and read the opposing team.
Although he mentioned virtually every receiver on the roster as a deep threat, he started with Nelson Agholor, who was slowed down last season because of a high ankle sprain.
“I don’t think people understand. Getting hurt as a rookie is probably the worst thing to happen to you because it’s already a mental grind,” Matthews said. “Once you take away a person’s youth, the one thing you can use to get over the mental grind, now what do you have?”
That’s why he expects Agholor to make a jump this year, but the 2015 first-round pick isn’t the only one Matthews is thinking about. Matthews referenced how he had his breakout seasons in both high school and college in his third year, and that he intends to do the same in the NFL.