By Paul Mancano – Almost three months ago, the Eagles made one of the most questionable moves in the franchise’s history when they cut wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
Don’t worry, this article will not be about DeSean Jackson. That horse was beaten dead in the week that followed, then roundhouse kicked in the jaw repeatedly in the months that followed. We watched as ESPN dragged out a bunch of talking heads to basically tell the nation they had no friggin’ clue what the hell Chip Kelly was thinking. About 30,000 Eagles fans hopped off the Chip Kelly bandwagon immediately, then about 29,999 hopped back on a week later when everyone told them to chill out.
No, this article is not about DeSean Jackson. It’s about the new kid in town who’s already turning heads about a month into his tenure here: Jordan Matthews. Apparently he’s just killing it down at the Novacare Complex (I wish I could speak first-hand about it, but I’m still waiting for my press pass. I think it got lost in the mail or something. Weird.) He’s getting a ton of reps, he’s looked ahead of the game, and he’s saying all the right things to the press. Maybe, just maybe, the Eagles struck gold again on a second round wideout.
On draft day, everyone thought the Birds would go with Marqise Lee, the star out of USC. They had a chance to take him at #22 but didn’t; then, when they traded down to #26, he was still there! Miracle of miracles, right? I mean, this guy was projected to go in the top 10 at one point. Great value for a college standout. Take him, Chip. It’s a no-brainer.
Instead, the Eagles made a head-scratching move and took linebacker Marcus Smith. Marqise had to wait an extra day before he was snatched up by the Jaguars in the second round. Meanwhile, Howie Roseman, with Chip in the sidecar, then hopped his way up to grab Matthews, the SEC’s all-time leader in yards and receptions. Chip later alluded – in his sly way – to the fact that he had wanted Lee, but the asking price to move up was too high.
I was elated. I was never big on Lee for a variety of reasons. First, his tangibles are just average: only 6’ and under 200 lbs, with a 4.52 dash. I know they don’t tell the whole story, but in Chip’s offense, I think you gotta have either speed or size, and Lee doesn’t have much of either. Second, he’s coming off an injury. It didn’t seem to be a big issue, but I still didn’t want our #1 and #2 receivers to be rehabbing. Lee just didn’t seem like the guy for this team.
Now look at Matthews. If you could tailor-make a player for Chip Kelly’s offense, it would be Dennis Dixon. But Jordan Matthews isn’t a bad second option. Matthews has better speed and size than Lee; 6’3”, 212 lbs with a 4.46 forty. Unlike some the other top receiver prospects (Odell Beckham and Kelvin Benjamin jump to mind), you don’t sacrifice speed for size or vice versa. He can spread the field and he can block: the ultimate weapon for this system. He’ll thrive under Chip, especially with four – yes, four – good-not-great pass-catchers behind him (some people forget, Shady can catch, too. Is he the best running back in the – no, forget it, we can’t start this now.)
Then look at his intangibles. Apparently, Matthews gets into the zone on game day. He’s been known to take losses hard and to beat himself up over things, which has earned him a reputation as a diva-type – a term we heard a lot over the years in reference to Jackson. But don’t get his stony-faced intensity confused with DeSean’s snarky arrogance. DeSean was a diva because he was all about himself. When things don’t go his way, he’ll pick a fight with a teammate or, say, a wide receivers coach. When he doesn’t get the contract he wants, he’ll hold out from training camp, half-ass a whole year, then have the balls to complain about it again three years later and two days after his team just got eliminated from the playoffs.
This kind of behavior is not what Matthews is about. Matthews gets upset when his team loses. And when they do, he blames himself, not others. The man is a tremendous competitor. Which reminds me, if you haven’t seen these two videos, you should do so right now:
That’s Matthews throwing up on the field. Yes, with real vomit and everything. He just straight up McNabbed it. Didn’t even pull off his helmet or anything. Then a few plays later, guess what he does?
He comes back in and makes a spectacular, game-saving catch. I don’t know about you, but I would’ve just said, “Screw this” and gone home after the whole puking my guts out on the field thing. He wants to win as bad as anybody on that field, you can see it.
Meanwhile, Marqise will have his hands full in Jacksonville. It’ll probably be Chad Henne throwing to him his rookie year. Eventually, the team will turn to 3rd-overall pick Blake Bortles, who I don’t even think was the best quarterback in the draft (that title belongs to my man Teddy. Sorry Johnny – wait, what am I apologizing to you for? You’re already the most talked-about player in the NFL and you haven’t even taken a snap yet. Nevermind, I take back my apology). Plus Gus “I almost came to Philly before Chip screwed me over and got me stuck in this black hole of a franchise” Bradley is his coach, who I don’t think is a bad coach, but he’s a defensive guy (he could also use a shorter nickname). The offense will also rely heavily on Lee and fellow rook Allen Robinson, a task I’m not sure either player is up for. I think Marqise will struggle for a while down in Florida.
Matthews and Lee are two very different wide receivers in two very different situations. For my money, I’d say, barring injury, Matthews ends up with the better career. He’s just primed to succeed immediately, and he’s got a fire in him that’ll keep him working hard. Guys like him don’t turn out to be average; they turn out to be stars.
Moose Call out.