Eagles news and notes for 1/9
Matthews still struggles with drops, and is not a consistent big play threat. For example, in 2016, Matthews had just one reception of 40+ yards. 67 players had at least two, 42 had at least three, 26 had at least four, and 10 had at least five. Questions also remain whether Matthews can only be effective in the NFL as a slot receiver, as opposed to a receiver who can also be a threat on the outside.
In his season-ending press conference, Carson Wentz was asked if every quarterback needs a "No. 1 receiver," with the reporter noting that he didn't already have one.
"I thought we did a good job of spreading the ball around," said Wentz. "I think that was kind of part of the game plan going into the season. We had a number of weapons that can get the job done, so we just look for mismatches. That's the biggest thing, from Jordan Matthews, when he was in the slot, to Ertz on safeties and linebackers. Sproles always creates mismatches outside. With Nelson and DGB and some of the younger guys stepping up, I thought we did a good job of spreading the ball around, for sure."
Wentz was able to get himself to say out loud that Nelson Agholor "stepped up," and yet, referred only to Matthews as a guy who creates mismatches when he plays in the slot.
The Eagles stuck with youth at the [wide receiver] position in 2016, and it did not work out. Jordan Matthews' production declined in his third year (73 catches, 804 yards, four touchdowns) while he fought an ankle injury in the final month. The top two outside receivers - Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham - couldn't even combine to reach those numbers.
Look for the Eagles to be active upgrading this position in both free agency and the draft. Chicago's Alshon Jeffery is the top pending free agent, but the Bears could apply the franchise tag on him for the second consecutive year. The Eagles could also be priced out if he hits the market.
They could look for a reunion with DeSean Jackson, who had 56 catches for 1,005 yards and four touchdowns. Jackson turned 30, so the question is how productive he'll be entering his 10th NFL season. Cleveland's Terrelle Pryor (77 catches, 1,007 yards, four touchdowns); Los Angeles' Kenny Britt (68 catches, 1,002 yards, five touchdowns); and Miami's Kenny Stills (42 catches, 726 yards, nine touchdowns) will be among the other top names on the market.
Clemson's Mike Williams is the top draft-eligible wide receiver, with Washington's John Ross, Western Michigan's Corey Davis, Southern California's JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Oklahoma's Dede Westbrook also likely to draw interest in the top two rounds.
With a second consecutive 7-9 year in the books, the Eagles head into the offseason once again disappointed with the result of their play. But, 2016’s seven-win season couldn’t be more different than the one the team finished with in 2015.
Unlike that year, Philadelphia successfully showed it is growing, improving and becoming a team that competes to the very end, until the last play is finished. So, although the players didn’t want to pack up their lockers on January 2, they did so with hope for what the future will bring.
"It definitely feels different. I feel like last year we were trending in the wrong direction at 7-9, where now I feel like we're trending up," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "It's different when you have stability at the head coaching job, you got stability at the quarterback position, and now you feel like we just got to build around that and add a few things here or there. Hopefully, we can have an uneventful offseason for once, but the feeling is definitely different than in years past.
"There are a lot of things that we did that we're proud of. It's kind of one of those integral parts of the growth process, I think, that the team is going through. Everybody is disappointed with the outcome, but we learned a lot of lessons. We learned about ourselves. I know we're really optimistic about moving forward."