The Philadelphia Eagles were more than happy to trade up to pick No. 42 and draft Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews in the 2014 NFL Draft. Matthews' combination of size, speed, and work ethic makes him a prototypical Chip Kelly pass catcher.
In order to learn more about one of the Eagles' newest wide receivers, I contacted Vanderbilt SB Nation blog Anchor of Gold. Christian D'Andrea was kind enough to answer my Matthews questions and had some worthwhile information to share. [Just like he did with Carey Spear.]
1) What is Jordan Matthews' NFL potential?
Matthews got dinged in pre-draft evaluations because scouts didn't think he'd be a #1 wideout. Fortunately for JMatt, he's been overcoming those kinds of criticism since arriving in Nashville. While he's not as explosive along the sidelines as you'd like a true #1 to be, the key to his game doesn't show up in statistics or measurements. His ability to create windows of opportunity despite being double or triple-teamed is tremendous. He's tough as nails and he rises to the occasion in big games. I think he can eventually emerge as a 1,000-yard receiver in the NFL due to his reliability and durability. He's going to give Nick Foles a sure-handed outlet in the slot this fall, and he will rise up from there.
2) What are his strengths?
First and foremost, Matthews is a player who led this team on and off the field. He was the guy who stepped up when this team needed game-saving first downs in 2012 and 2013. You can't measure clutch, but Matthews has an extra gear that he can access when he needs it the most.
Physically, he's an imposing WR (6'3", 212 lbs) that can play along the sideline or over the middle. He uses every inch of his body to battle for passes, and he doesn't fear getting lit up between the hashmarks. He won't develop a case of alligator arms if Chip Kelly runs him exclusively in the slot this season.
He has solid speed and strength, but as I mentioned above his best feature as a pass catcher is his ability to create separation when the ball is in the air. He developed a solid rapport with his QBs at Vanderbilt despite playing with five different passers in his final three seasons. Once he and Foles get on the same page, they'll be able to use that chemistry to pull big plays out of nowhere.
3) What are his weaknesses?
Matthews had a few uncharacteristic drops last year. He also doesn't have blazing Combine numbers like some of the players who rose above him in the 2014 Draft. Matthews has good, but not great, speed and lateral quickness. He may be limited as a deep threat by NFL defensive backs.
4) Matthews is often lauded for his high-character and hard-working personality. Are there any good stories to tell about his efforts?
Dude, that Ole Miss game. It was a testament to the strength of Jordan Matthews and the lunacy of Matt Millen.
So Vandy's trailing in last year's season opener 32-28 with the ball on their own 20 yard line. Matthews gets sent over the middle on 2nd-and-10, extends to make the catch, and then gets absolutely buried at the 32. He holds on to the ball, but he's absolutely hurting from a big shot to his abdomen.
Seconds later, he's expelling every ounce of Gatorade he's had that day on the turf at Dudley Field. Matt Millen, because he is a doctor and not an abject failure of a GM, quickly diagnoses Matthews with a concussion. Matthews leaves the field with the help of a trainer and gets checked out on the sideline. He's cleared to reenter the game (to Millen's horror), and steps back onto the field facing 4th-and-18 from the Vandy 24. This game, clearly, is on the line. Ole Miss knows exactly what's coming. Only Millen does not, because he is going on a tangent about how Matthews' vomiting can only be the result of head trauma and not because, well, he just got hit extremely hard in the gut.
Matthews is at least double-teamed downfield (a trailing defender suggests that OM may have put 3 players on him), but Matthews has found a way to create one of those windows we were talking about. Austyn Carta-Samuels puts a perfect pass right through that window, and it's a 42 yard gain on 4th-and-18 with the outcome of the contest hanging in the balance.
If my whiskey-fueled memory serves me, Vanderbilt went on to score with the next play, and the referees were so impressed that they called the game right then and there. Vandy wins.
Right then and there. Pretty sure that's how it went down.
(You want an even more impressive game-saving catch that actually led to a victory? Check this one out)
5) Anything else you want to let us know about Matthews?
Matthews was the entire Vanderbilt offense last year. Any time this team needed a big play, there was one source they turned to. He put this team on his back when he needed to, and I have no doubt that he's ready to be a big time contributor in the NFL. You guys will enjoy watching him play.
Thanks again to Christian and don't forget to check out Anchor of Gold.