PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles' search for a wide receiver ended with someone very familiar to them: Jordan Matthews.
Matthews was signed Wednesday morning after working out for the Eagles on Tuesday at the team's practice facility. Mike Wallace was placed on injured reserve. Matthews was the Eagles' second-round draft pick in 2014. He played for them through 2016, leading them in receptions his last two seasons, and formed a very close relationship with quarterback Carson Wentz.
Matthews was traded to Buffalo in the summer of 2017, along with a third-round pick, in return for cornerback Ronald Darby. Matthews was signed by the New England Patriots last spring, and they released him this summer after Matthews suffered a hamstring injury.
The Eagles, no doubt, were checking to see if Matthews' injury had healed before deciding whether to sign him. That's because they can certainly use him right away. The Eagles are down to three healthy wide receivers heading into their game this Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts after releasing DeAndre Carter on Tuesday.
The three are Nelson Agholor, Kamar Aiken, signed last week, and Shelton Gibson, who has two career receptions.
The Eagles used Carter's spot to promote running back Josh Adams from the practice squad, a sign that the Eagles might be without Jay Ajayi, who suffered a back injury against the Buccaneers on Sunday and/or Darren Sproles, who sat out that game with a hamstring injury.
Matthews' best season came in 2015 with the Eagles when he had 85 receptions for 997 yards and eight touchdowns. He had 73 catches for 804 yards and 3 TDs in 2016, which was Doug Pederson's first season as head coach.
Matthews was injured much of last season, playing in 10 games with just 25 receptions for 282 yards and a touchdown.
The Eagles could have considered veterans like former Cowboy Dez Bryant, Kenny Britt, or even Jeremy Maclin, who played for the Eagles from 2009-14. Maclin was with the Ravens last season.
Even with Matthews, the Eagles will likely rely more on tight ends and running backs. That could include Josh Perkins, who played 26 snaps in the Eagles' 27-21 loss to Tampa Bay. That was nine more snaps than fellow tight end Dallas Goedert, the Eagles' second-round pick in the draft last May.
The argument can be made that the only reason Perkins made the 53-man roster was because veteran tight end Richard Rodgers was put on the injured reserve list.
Rodgers has to miss at least the first eight weeks of the season.
"Who knows?" Perkins said about not being on the team had Rodgers not hurt his knee. "I’m not God. I don’t know what would have happened. I’m just glad to be here. I’m glad to be in this situation."
Perkins isn't the only one feeling that way on an Eagles team that is severely depleted at wide receiver. The Eagles are without three of their top four in Alshon Jeffery, still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery; Mack Hollins, who is on IR; and Wallace, who broke his fibula on Sunday.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson said if they do acquire a receiver, he would prefer a veteran. The Eagles could also trade for one, but they seem unwilling to give up draft picks.
"If you just asked me, a veteran player would be a lot easier to work with than a young rookie player to get them caught up, plus a guy that's had game experience," Pederson said. "Definitely going to have to rely on the tight ends more, going to have to rely on the running game a little bit more and kind of lean that direction until we can figure this out."
Former Ohio State star Braxton Miller is one of the wide receivers who could be promoted from the practice squad. Miller was a third-round pick of the Houston Texans in 2016 before getting released heading into the regular season. The Eagles signed him to the 10-man practice squad last week.
When asked about the possibility of promoting Miller, Pederson said: "He's made an impression. But, he's another one that we have to continue to coach up and see where he's at, because he hasn't had any, really, exposure to our offense yet."
Against the Buccaneers, Pederson did try spreading the receptions around to other positions. Tight end Zach Ertz led the Eagles with 11 receptions, good for 94 yards. Agholor had eight for 95 yards and a touchdown. Running back Corey Clement had five catches for 55 yards.
Sproles is typically a big part of the passing game as a receiver out of the backfield, if he plays.
And then there's Perkins. He came into the game with three career receptions for 42 yards — all coming in 2016 while with the Atlanta Falcons. Perkins eclipsed both of those totals Sunday, finishing with four catches for 57 yards.
But the Eagles also need more from Goedert, who didn't have a reception Sunday. He wasn't even targeted.
Pederson had a convoluted explanation for why Perkins had more opportunities than Goedert. It basically boiled down to when Wallace left the game, Pederson didn't want to change multiple positions, so he just had Perkins pick up the slack while keeping Goedert in his role.
Perkins, of course, welcomed all of it. He was considered a long shot to making the 53-man roster coming out of the preseason.
But don't tell him that.
"When it comes down to it, I’m going to say that was my plan all along," he said. "I’m not coming in here just to practice. I came in here and worked my butt off each and every day. That was the goal for me."
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