After the initial shock of yesterday’s trades wore off, it was time to start finding out about the newest members of the Buffalo Bills. We reached out to Bleeding Green Nation’s Brandon Gowtin for some insight into Jordan Matthews, the guy who will be taking Sammy Watkins’ place on the depth chart in 2017.
1) The Bills have three guys who would seemingly be bound for the slot on other teams. Is Matthews capable of playing on the outside, and how has he done there in the past?
Matthews almost exclusively played in the slot during the first two years of his career in 2014 and 2015. That changed a little bit last year. In 2016, he “only” played in the slot for 67.1% of Philadelphia’s offensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. Matthews was targeted 40 times when not playing in the slot. He had 20 receptions for 222 yards (11.1 average) in those situations. Not very impressive.
It seems telling that the Eagles didn’t use Matthews in a more extensive role on the outside when they really lacked ample talent at that spot last season. To me, if he could play outside in the NFL, he would have been used that way by now. It’s not like he’s been blocked by talent ahead of him in that position.
2) What are his biggest strengths?
You know, I don’t know. I posed this question on Twitter earlier this offseason. There was no real consensus answer.
Matthews is a really hard-worker. He’s a great locker room guy by all accounts. He’s been mostly durable. Those things I do know.
But what is he good at on the field? I don’t know if there’s anything that clearly stands out. He’s fine in a number of areas — I’m not trying to say he’s a flat out bad player. I just don’t think he’s especially awesome at anything.
3) How about his biggest weaknesses?
Drops have been a huge issue for Matthews dating back to college. Some of them have been so bad.
He’s also not super great at dragging his feet to stay inbounds.
Matthews has long speed but he’s not especially quick or shifty.
4) Matthews went from eight touchdowns in each of his first two seasons to just three last year. What happened?
I wrote an entire article about why Matthews’ statistics are inflated, especially when it comes to his first two seasons in the league.
Another thing to consider is Matthews missed a couple games and played through injury late in the season.
5) His catch rates seem to hover in the mid-60s. Is he prone to a lot of drops? Any particular reason you've noticed for that?
As shown above in the weakness section, he’s definitely prone to drops. Matthews had a high drop rate in college so this has just always been an issue for him. I’ve personally noticed that some sites credit him with less drops than he really had. For example, I went back and watched all the Eagles’ drops during the 2015 season. PFF only marked him down for nine drops that year but I counted 16.
6) The Bills effectively replaced Sammy Watkins with Matthews. From the outside, what does that say to you about how competitive the Bills will be in 2017?
I think it might be easy to look at Matthews’ volume numbers and think the Bills are getting a more productive receiver than Watkins. But when it comes to efficiency, Watkins has clearly been the better player.
I don’t think Matthews belongs on the outside for a majority of the Bills’ snaps. If that’s where the team is planning on using him, I’d be concerned. I’m not sure that helps the Bills be more competitive this season.
I realize that it might come off that I hate JMatt based on my answers to your questions. I don’t hate JMatt. I wish him the best in Buffalo. I think he’s a fine slot receiver. My problem is that I think people overrate him due to his inflated numbers. I expect his volume numbers to go down in an offense where he has to compete for more targets and isn’t the only viable receiver. His volume numbers also won’t be there as much if the Bills continue to run the ball as much as they did in 2016.
Again, JMatt is a solid player and a great guy. But I had no interest in the Eagles paying him what Spotrac projects his next contract to be: five years at $50,138,099.