But we realized we never went deep on slot receiver Jordan Matthews. And so, with camp looming and it becoming increasingly evident that Julian Edelman will miss the first four games of the 2018 season, we wanted to take a closer look at Matthews’ game and examine what he might be able to bring to the table as a member of the Patriots.
The 6-foot-3, 212-pounder was an immediate hit when he entered the league as a rookie with Philly in 2014. In Chip Kelly’s spread offense, he was able to rack up impressive totals while working as a slot receiver in Kelly’s go-go scheme. He distinguished himself as a dependable option, and became an asset in a number of areas, including yards after the catch. According to our pal Jimmy Kempski, in 2014, including Matthews, there were 36 wide receivers with at least 65 catches last season. Only two of them had a better yards after the catch average than Matthews, who averaged 6.2 yards after the catch. Overall, getting the ball to him in space as a slot receiver proved to be very productive for the Philly offense — out of the slot on more than 90 percent of his snaps, he had 152 catches, 1,869 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first two seasons in the Eagles.
Then, things turned sour. His biggest issue appeared to be health. He was on the shelf with a variety of maladies (knee, ankle and thumb) and took a shot at the Eagles’ doctors on his way out of town after the 2016 season for what happened. Ultimately, whether or not it was a misdiagnosis in Philadelphia, a change of scheme (or quarterback), or something else entirely, his numbers took a considerable dip last year with the Bills — 25 catches, 282 yards and one touchdowns in seven games with Buffalo. (He did say this past spring he’s back to 100 percent health again.)
Now, he’s in New England. To start the 2018 season, Matthews is one of a handful of possibilities to try and replace some of the production that departed when Danny Amendola left town. (He certainly did his part to acknowledge what Amendola meant to the Patriots the last few seasons.) With Edelman on the sidelines for the first four games of the year, he should also be considered a short-term stopgap to help in the slot as well. (One thought: I have to imagine Bill Belichick and/or Josh McDaniels had a conversation with Kelly regarding how to best maximize Matthews’ skill set. No coach was able to get better production out of him than Kelly.)
We got a brief look at Matthews this spring, and he was one of the first on the field and last off when it came to practices. (While we’re not sure how much this helps with the coaching staff, at the very least, it’s a good look.) One of the things you want to try and take it with a newcomer in the spring practices is whether or not they might look overwhelmed — in the case of a receiver, lining up in a wrong spot, dropping an exceptional number of passes or simply drawing the wrath of the coaches. Matthews certainly passed all of those tests, in addition to showing some early versatility.
So is he the guy who needs a spread offense and a high-volume passing game to succeed in the NFL? Or is he someone who occasionally gets lost in the wash in a more traditional offense? A film study of his work last year reveals a little of both.