Wide receiver Jordan Matthews isn't much into setting statistical goals for himself ahead of his third NFL season. Instead, the Vanderbilt product is focused on getting better every day, and perhaps just as importantly, building strong relationships along the way.
Perhaps the most important bond for Matthews is the one he's been solidifying with quarterback Sam Bradford. At the end of the 2015 season, Matthews spoke openly about wanting Bradford to return to the team. At the time, the quarterback was heading into free agency and his future remained up in the air. Bradford, of course, signed a new two-year deal with the Eagles in the offseason, and Matthews has already seen the benefit of having the signal-caller back for another season.
"Every single time we're out here, whether it's a good play or a bad play, I'm going back and asking Sam what he saw, what he likes, what he wants to do better and really just how I can improve my game to fit his standards of what he needs to see," Matthews said.
"The quarterbacks have so much that they have to deal with, so I want to make that job as easy as possible for him, and he's great with that. If he doesn't like something he'll be like 'Jordan, come on.' He'll tell me what I have to do. I'll say, 'Alright, I got you,' and then we'll go back and correct it, and then we'll come back after practice and get some reps too, just to kind of work on it. So we're still kind of building that chemistry, but at the same time we're on the same page of knowing each other and building that close relationship."
During the offseason, Matthews, along with tight end Zach Ertz, flew to Oklahoma to spend a few days at Bradford's home. The three players took some time to work on the game of football, but for Matthews the trip was just as important as a way to spend some quality time with two of his teammates.
"I tell people that all the time because it's different when the guy who is upset with you because you messed up on your route isn't just your quarterback; that person is your friend," Matthews explained. "You know he's counting on you. So when he says, 'I need you to get to 12 yards on this play,' you're getting to 12 yards because it's not just some guy who's doing his job and yelling at you, that's your boy.
"That's why those relationships are so important, and I'm just trying to make sure I help him come out as best as possible so that he can have a great season too because I know he deserves it and that's what I'm going to work for."
While Matthews continues to develop his chemistry with the Eagles' starting quarterback, he's also been building his ties within the Eagles' wide receivers room. Training Camp is a time when players are typically scratching and clawing and doing anything they can for one of the coveted 53 roster spots, but the Eagles' receivers aren't letting the nature of Training Camp change the overall feeling in their room. In fact, Matthews has seen the opposite, with the receivers coming closer together rather than drifting apart.
"Everybody kind of has something to prove. If you look at the stories coming into the year, you can always find some areas where you can say that someone needs to go out there and prove themselves," Matthews said about the group as a whole. "You look at Chris (Givens), who has been with a couple of teams and missed his chance. You look at (Rueben Randle) leaving New York, Josh (Huff), he has something to prove. Nelson (Agholor), coming off of his rookie year and a first-round pick, he's got something, and I always feel like I have a chip on my shoulder, so it's one of those things where you have all of that in a room, but then the best part about it is that everybody is even-keel about it.
"You don't want to have a whole bunch of egos bouncing across the room. You want guys to come in and be focused and be the best person that they can be, and then also not let those things that guys feel that they have to prove disrupt friendships and chemistry."
Matthews even shared an anecdote about the current wide receivers group. Camp means long days and few breaks, as the players spend almost all day, every day together - on the field, in meetings, in the weight room and even in the cafeteria. Tuesday was the players' first off day of camp, and instead of everyone heading their separate ways for some time alone, Matthews said the receivers used the opportunity to further strengthen their connection.
"We actually went out to eat as a wide receiver unit, and I don't think you know how rare that is that on your one off day during camp guys still want to hang out with each other. That's extremely rare. That stuff does not happen in the NFL, trust me," Matthews said. "In the season, OK maybe, but during camp, the one off day, the last people guys want to see are people that they see every day in this locker room, and all of the receivers decided that we wanted to go eat together.
"That's the type of room you want and those are the type of guys where when someone goes out there and when someone has a play and they have to block for them, they're doing it willingly because they want that guy to do well. When somebody scores, everybody's genuinely happy for them. That's how you build camaraderie and that's how you build a team that is actually going to go out there and win games."