There’s an old adage that reads, “It’s not about how you start; it’s about how you finish.”
Judging by Monday’s Organized Team Activity at the NovaCare Complex, rookie wide receiver
Matthews' impressive blend of speed, size and athleticism was on full display, but there was something else that Matthews did that garnered some attention. Every time he caught the ball in a team drill, he didn’t slow down and come to a stop after making the catch. Instead, he finished the play, running to the end zone full speed, no matter how many yards away he was from the goal line.
“It’s who I am,” explained the Eagles' second-round draft pick, who added that he’s been practicing the same way since he was in middle school.
The 6-foot-3, 212-pound receiver’s intense work ethic, both on and off of the field, has been well-documented since his arrival in Philadelphia. After selecting the Vanderbilt receiver in the second round of the 2014 draft, general manager Howie Roseman told a story of Matthews having already studied Eagles game tape prior to coming in for a pre-draft visit with the team.
Preparation is a huge part Matthews’ game. As he prepares to play at the next level, he’s grateful to have such a strong group of playmakers around him to help ease the transition.
“I’ve got great talent around me and when you have great guys around you, it makes you more comfortable. I’m just able to come out and do my job,” said Matthews. “It’s definitely a good feeling when you can look around and see probably the best running back in the NFL, a great quarterback, a veteran tight end, another great tight end and two great receivers outside of you. It’s a good situation to be in and I’m just going to come out here and work as hard as I can.
“I don’t want to say that it’s easier because the transition to the NFL isn’t easy. People say that a lot with receivers when they come into the league. I’d definitely say it’s a blessing, though, to be able to look around and see some All-Pro guys around you. I’m just trying to take it in stride and be the best that I can be.”
During his four seasons at Vanderbilt, Matthews lined up all over the formation hauling in 262 catches for 3,759 yards. However, head coach Chip Kelly said that the Eagles are going to initially play Matthews in the slot, an area where the SEC’s all-time leading receiver is well versed.
“You’ve got to be physical,” Matthews said of playing in the slot. “There are going to be a lot of big guys in there with linebackers and safeties rolling down in the box. People say that you get to go up against some small nickels, but they won’t put anybody out there unless they were stout and they had some pretty good strength, so you have to be able to play strong and physical, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
For the past several seasons, Jason Avant, who has since signed with the Carolina Panthers, occupied the all-important role of inside receiver in the Eagles’ offense. It now appears as if that starting spot is up for grabs, but Matthews isn’t concerned about the way the depth chart looks right now. He’s simply taking things day-by-day and working hard to improve all aspects of his game.
“I look at it as if I have to come out here and be the best Eagle that I can be,” he explained. "I don’t pay attention to all of that stuff and I don’t worry about all of that stuff. I’m trying to learn from the guys who are older than me and learn from Brad (Smith), who is an awesome pro who has been in the league for a long time. I’m trying to watch Jeremy (Maclin) and Riley (Cooper) outside in case I have to ever play outside too. That’s the approach I’m taking, and like I’ve said, I’m an empty vessel and I’m just trying to come out here and learn.”