FOXBORO, Mass. - If Friday night's preseason action against the New England Patriots was any indication, the Eagles' offense is set to feature a dynamic duo in the passing game. Call them the second-round studs.
Wide receiver Jordan Matthews and tight end Zach Ertz, the Eagles' second-round picks in the last two NFL Drafts, were all over the place for the Eagles in the 42-35 loss. After a disappointing debut performance last week against the Chicago Bears, Jordan Matthews rebounded in a big way, catching nine passes (on nine targets) for 104 yards. Ertz, meanwhile, made an impressive leaping 20-yard catch and hauled in the offense's first touchdown on a 6-yard throw from Nick Foles.
"It was a great ball by Nick," Ertz said. "I pride myself on being able to make contested catches in the red zone. The windows get tighter and you have to fight for the ball and I think that's something I excel at."
Ertz, though, has largely been expected to big a part of the offense this season. Matthews' performance, which came working with both the first- and second-team offenses, was a very encouraging sign.
"I think he really did bounce back," said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. "I thought he made some good catches. He ran with the ball after he caught the ball. He did some good things in the run game, and so this certainly was a much better outing for him than the first one."
Matthews was the first to express his disappointment in the few drops he made against the Chicago Bears, and so he too recognized the step forward.
"I've wanted to keep that same mindset, just go out there and try to make plays, just continue to slow the game down in my head, make it feel more like practice," Matthews said after the game. "I feel like I was able to do some good things, but there's still a lot of room for improvement … I just have to continue to have that same chip on my shoulder and go out to practice hard each day. That's what I'm really going to focus on."
Though players like quarterback Mark Sanchez explained away Matthews' performance against the Bears as adjusting to life in the NFL and, perhaps dealing with the emotions of one's first NFL game, Matthews had a different take.
"I don't like to use that word, jitters, because to say jitters are the reason that I didn't play too well last game, I feel like that's an excuse," said Matthews. "So that's not something I'm ever trying to say. But I would definitely say I'd like to thank the guys around me, all the quarterbacks, Nick, Mark, Matt (Barkley), they've helped me to continue to stay calm.
"Even when I wasn't able to capitalize on some plays last week, they continued to just throw the ball my way, continue to have confidence in me. You know, when the guys around you have confidence in you, that helps your confidence get up too. Really just those guys helping me in those situations, Coach Kelly trusting in me too, that just makes me want to go out there and continue to work hard, continue to get better."
With Matthews and Ertz set to patrol the middle of the field for the foreseeable future, Eagles quarterbacks will have their choice of two comfortable security blankets.
"They're big, strong, physical guys with good hands that can run after the catch," said Sanchez. "So, I mean, you get them the ball anywhere on the field. They have a big wingspan, they can make up for a throwing error behind them, in front of them, up top, down low, these guys can make plays and make the quarterback look good."
Make sure to follow us on Twitter @EaglesInsider.
On Friday night, the Eagles took on the New England Patriots in their second preseason game of 2014 ...