Jordan Matthews is already a rock star. After practice at the Linc, a group of fans were chanting "JOR-DAN! JOR-DAN!" Matthews, appreciative of the fans' love, went over to sign autographs. The Matthews hype train is full steam ahead, and I can't help but think that he's an almost certain lock to disappoint, numbers-wise.
The Eagles are loaded with offensive skill players. They have a unanimous top three running back in LeSean McCoy, a pair of wide receivers ahead of Matthews in Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper, an emerging tight end in Zach Ertz, a steady contributor in Brent Celek, a reception machine for a backup RB in Darren Sproles, not to mention other players who could see roles in the offense like Josh Huff, Brad Smith, James Casey and Chris Polk. Said more succinctly, there are a lot of mouths to feed, and opportunities for Matthews will not be as plentiful as they would be in other offenses around the league.
With that disclaimer in place, Matthews continues to impress. Matthews had one series in which he caught three consecutive passes from Mark Sanchez. With the Eagles always running their hurry-up offense in practice, here's what that means -- Matthews ran his route, made the catch, sprinted upfield, sprinted back to the line of scrimmage, ran another route, made the catch, sprinted upfield, sprinted back to the line of scrimmage, ran another route, made the catch, and sprinted upfield.
Three things stand out with Matthews so far:
1) His hands were a perceived negative coming out of college. I haven't seen that at all. To be determined if this will change in game situations, but he has caught almost everything in OTAs and camp so far.
2) His conditioning seems to be outstanding.
3) His run after the catch style is no-nonsense. It's "get it and go." There are no stutter steps, no back-tracking, no juking. He just gets vertical. In the past we've seen LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson produce big plays with lateral jukes, so I'm certainly not saying that's Matthews' style is more effective, but I do like that he doesn't seem to leave any meat on the bone once he has the ball in his hands. He knows he's not a juker, and doesn't try to be one.
• One of Nick Foles' great strengths is stepping up in the pocket while keeping his eyes down the field and delivering accurate throws on the move. It's not a skill set that is flashy, but it is also not a skill set that many quarterbacks master. We got our first glimpse of that aspect of Foles' game in his rookie season against the Buccaneers, when Foles was able to step up in the pocket all day and make subtle, yet difficult throws while under pressure. For example:
In practice on Monday, an outside pass rush forced Foles to step up in the pocket when he stopped, turned to his right, and hit a wide open LeSean McCoy in stride near the sideline. The ball was on the money and allowed McCoy to maximize his yards after the catch. In the NFL, hitting a wide open receiver in stride can often be the difference between a 10 yard gain and a 60 yard gain. Foles' ability to feel pressure and move in the pocket while continuing to look for the open man allowed him to spot McCoy for a nice gain. Compare Foles hitting a wide open running back in the flat to a 30 yard run by Colin Kaepernick, and Foles' play looks very "meh." But the degree of difficulty is just as steep -- It's just a different kind of difficulty. Foles can't do what Kaepernick can with his feet, but most QBs don't have Foles' vision, even though he's only been in the league two years.
• With the Eagles in pads Monday, we had our first opportunity to check out the Eagles' pass rushers. At one point, Marcus Smith was down in a three-point stance, lined up as the LDE in a four lineman nickel set. I was pleasantly surprised by his burst off the snap. He exploded off the ball and got the corner on the right tackle, but the ball came out quickly, so he had no chance at getting to the QB. That was just one play, but it was something that caught my eye, and will continue to watch with him going forward.
• Vinny Curry had a nice inside pass rush against the first teamers for a would-be sack. (QBs are untouchable, of course). It looked like Todd Herremans was his victim. Curry could thrive as an interior pass rusher on obvious passing downs, similarly to the way the Eagles formerly used Darren Howard. There aren't many guards in the league who could consistently handle Curry's burst off the snap, and his quickness. The Eagles' defense needs to do a better job getting opposing offenses into 2nd and long and 3rd and long situations this season. And when they do, Curry has to be on the field.
• A day after I praised him for catching the ball well, RB Matthew Tucker had three drops, and had a fourth ball bounce off his shoulder because he wasn't looking for it. Bad day for him.
• BJ Cunningham had a nice leaping grab. Also, I'm a little late on this, but I forgot to note that Rutgers alum Quron Pratt also had a nice leaping grab on Sunday.
• There was another fight.
Who won the day?
July 26: Mark Sanchez
July 27: Eagles running backs
July 28: Jordan Matthews
Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski