Philadelphia Eagles

Can Jordan Matthews Serve as Eagles' Replacement for DeSean Jackson?

Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews reacts to the crowd after being selected as the 42 pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Friday, May 9, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Jason DeCrow/Associated Press
Ryan McCrystalFeatured ColumnistMay 10, 2014

No one is shocked that the Philadelphia Eagles selected a wide receiver early in this draft, but the type of receiver they landed in Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews comes as a mild surprise. 

At Oregon, Chip Kelly has built an offense around smaller, explosive receivers, and that style carried over in Philadelphia with the receivers he inherited such as DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin

As a result, prospects such as Brandin Cooks, Odell Beckham and Marqise Lee appeared to be great fits for the Eagles. But with all three off the board, Kelly decided to add a new dimension to his offense with the 6'3", 212-pound Matthews.

The biggest difference between Matthews and Jackson is pure speed.

Due to Jackson's explosive ability, the Eagles used him to stretch the field and to create after the catch.

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), among receivers with at least 75 targets, only Torrey Smith was targeted beyond 20 yards downfield more frequently than Jackson (27.7 percent of his total targets). 

And when Eagles weren't throwing Jackson the deep ball, they were giving him quick strike passes to allow him to make plays after the catch (43.3 percent of his receptions were within nine yards of the line of scrimmage).

What Matthews excels at, however, are the intermediate routes. 

He's a polished route-runner with the ability to lose defensive backs with subtle fakes in the stem of his route. This skill set allows Matthews to be a more well-rounded route-runner, which actually makes him a better replacement for former Eagles slot receiver Jason Avant.

In 2013, the Eagles used Avant in the slot in a much more balanced role than Jackson, and according to Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer, that's exactly the role in which the Eagles will use Matthews:

Kelly said the #Eagles had an outside replacement for DeSean in Maclin. Needed an inside one to replace Avant, hence Matthews.

— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) May 10, 2014

Chip Kelly on Jordan Matthews: "We talk about man coverage and he can catch the ball in traffic." Gonna start him inside.

— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) May 10, 2014

Matthews also has the potential to develop into the Eagles primary red zone threat from the slot. 

Eagles fans should expect to see a lot of corner routes in the red zone from Matthews, setting him up for jump balls from Nick Foles. This isn't an area in which Matthews has a ton of experience, but he has the size and frame to develop into a more polished possession receiver. 

So is Matthews the next Jackson? No, not even close. They're both wide receivers, and the comparisons end there. 

But Matthews does add a new and critical dimension to the Eagles offense which should help Foles continue his development as their franchise quarterback. 

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