FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The proverbial chip on Jordan Matthews’ shoulder doesn’t expand or diminish depending on whether he’s coming off a great performance or an outing that proved less than stellar.
That was the gist of the rookie wide receiver’s attitude after an impressive nine-catch, 104-yard performance in the Eagles’ 42-35 preseason loss to the Patriots last night at Gillette Stadium.
“There’s still a lot of areas for improvement,” said Matthews, who bounced back from a rough debut in last Friday's preseason opener at Chicago.
“I mean, I can’t wait for Sunday, to be able to go out there and get back to work with the team. I know everybody’s extremely hungry. Everybody’s ready to get back to work. That’s what we’re really focusing on, getting better and getting ready for the Steelers [on Thursday at Lincoln Financial Field].”
A week after dropping three of the seven passes thrown his way, Matthews caught each of the nine passes targeted at his 6-3, 212-pound frame. His nine catches were a game-high and accounted for a quarter of the Eagles’ receptions. The wideouts with the next-most catches on the team were Damaris Johnson and Ifeanyi Momah, each of whom recorded three.
Coach Chip Kelly said he was happy with the performance of Matthews, whom he noted “was just a little overexcited” in his first NFL game last week. The recent second-round draft pick out of Vanderbilt caught four passes for 14 yards against the Bears.
“The same thing that we’ve seen when we’ve been in our training sessions at the NovaCare [Complex] is what we saw tonight,” Kelly said. “He’s just such an emotional guy and plays at such a high level that I think he was just a little too ramped up against Chicago. I’m glad with what we saw tonight.”
Although Matthews has taken mostly second-team reps at slot receiver this training camp, he saw snaps early last night. He hauled in passes from each of the Eagles’ three quarterbacks to see action, starter Nick Foles, and backups Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley, but the bulk of his production came with Sanchez under center.
Four of his receptions came during the Eagles’ first scoring drive of the second half. That included a 25-yard catch and run on a crossing route over the middle. His 6-yard catch to the Patriots’ 5-yard line set up Johnson’s game-tying, five-yard touchdown catch midway through the third quarter.
“He had a much better outing tonight,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said of Matthews. “He caught the ball well. He ran with it after he caught it. He did some good things in the run game. You always hold final judgment until we watch the tape. I’m sure he had his errors in there. But just looking at it from the press box, I think he had a much better outing.”
Matthews spent his final minutes in the visiting team locker room discussing areas in which he needs to improve. He caught a lot of balls in zone coverage, he noted, but the NFL is a man-coverage-dominated league. His production won’t come only from underneath passes all season, he said, explaining he needs to run up the seams and make plays.
But wasn’t this performance important for him personally in the wake of last week’s?
“I never look at the stat sheet to tell if I had a big game,” he said. “When I go back and look at the film and start dissecting the plays that I did good, look at the plays that I did bad, I could tell you then if I felt like it was a good game or not. But at the same time, you’ve got to look at the big picture. We want to come out and win these games. I could care less if it’s preseason. As a team, I know everybody wants to win, so that’s what I’m focused on doing, too.”
Foles said he expected a big game from Matthews.
"He's a young guy, he's a rookie this year, and I remember what it was like as a rookie," he said. "You have a lot of emotions going and ups and downs and he's really done a good job so if he has a rough day, he bounces back and keeps working. He doesn't let himself get down and that's going to be one of his greatest attributes through his career.
"He continues to grind. He continues to work."
On Twitter: @jakemkaplan