You might be tired of hearing about the competition between Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor in the slot. You might be thinking it’s not even a real position battle.
You might need to think again.
Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich had some interesting comments about the situation following Monday’s training camp practice.
Q. Is WR Jordan Matthews' spot up for competition?
FRANK REICH: Every spot is up for competition. The way we kind of roll things is we're always looking for guys who make plays. So Nelson [Agholor] has had a real strong spring and camp. So the way we do it is it's kind of by play. Sometimes we'll switch guys up. We'll see what a defense does from a coverage standpoint, and then we want to attack that coverage. Then, within that coverage we have match-ups, and within those match-ups there are certain matches that fit certain guys better than others. So Jordan -- we play to the players' strengths. And the good thing is [is] we have some players who have strengths to play to.
Reich is clearly admitting there’s a competition for the slot position. The “every spot” is a stock answer, yes, but in this case Reich even admitted this year’s situation is different than last year where Matthews was the undisputed slot receiver.
Q. Is that different from last year where it seemed like Jordan was the slot guy?
FRANK REICH: I mean, I think, right now, the whole receiving room is more competitive. So yeah, I think it is a little bit different than last year.
Suddenly, Daniel Jeremiah’s bold claim that Agholor will be the Eagles’ slot receiver doesn’t look so far-fetched. Especially when you hear Reich rave about Agholor.
Q: As far as WR Nelson Agholor, the separation seems to be there on a consistent basis. Do you think he has gotten over that hump in catching the football as far as consistency goes?
FRANK REICH: I really do think Nelson has gotten over the hump and had a great spring and a great training camp. He's just making a ton of plays out there. I mean, we're always going to have a miss or two. Every position does. But we’re very pleased with how he's playing, [and he’s] making a lot of plays. You know when he's on the field. I think the defense knows when he's on the field. I mean, he's been a threat.
One reporter even pointed out that Matthews has been a really productive player and it seems unusual for a player like that to potentially see a decreased role.
Q. Jordan Matthews was one of the franchise's most productive wide receivers the first three years of his career. But now in Year Four we’re talking about maybe a reduced role. What do you attribute that to?
FRANK REICH: Well, I don't know how it's going to play out. [Whether] it [is] going to be a reduced role, [or] is it not. I think that's to be determined. And that's going to be determined by how things roll out, how he plays and how things play out in that room, competitively. What you see, whether it's with receivers or backs, sometimes somebody gets a hot hand, and you just build chemistry. Last year, Jordan and Carson, early in the year, were almost like Zach [Ertz] and Carson were at the end of the year. We know there's something there between those two guys [Jordan and Carson]. So we look to develop that, and certainly expect big plays out of Jordan.
As I’ve said before, the feeling here is that the Eagles will not outright bench Matthews. He’s still taking the first team reps in the slot. But Matthews could certainly see a decrease in playing time if Agholor continues to emerge.
Agholor has had some struggles in the past few days of practice, but he’s been more good than bad this offseason. He still has a lot to prove when it comes to the actual games. If Agholor does continue to show encouraging signs, the Eagles will have to find a way to get him involved in the offense. And if that’s the case, it’s hard to believe he’ll be stealing snaps from Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith given that Agholor has looked good playing in the slot.
It may very well turn out that Matthews holds on to his slot job. But Agholor isn’t just an idle threat.