The connection between a wide receiver and quarterback is arguably one of the most important in sports. The two need to be on the same page every time they take the field, something the Eagles' 2015 leading receiver Jordan Matthews is well aware of. In fact, that's one of the reasons he was so vocal about his desire for Sam Bradford to return to the team following last season.
The wide receiver got his wish as Bradford is back in Philadelphia on a two-year contract, which has already given Matthews the chance to develop a deeper relationship with his quarterback. The two are now focused on building upon what they accomplished in 2015, when the wide receiver was just 3 yards shy of hitting the 1,000-yard receiving mark.
"I think just building that (chemistry) was so huge because I don't think people put emphasis on it enough," Matthews explained. "I think sometimes people like change as much as they like winning, but at the end of the day, sometimes all change isn't that good. If you look at the most consistent teams in the league, they're the ones that keep their guys. Even though Sam obviously did come from a different team, I feel like he meshed in extremely well with us. He jelled with the guys. You started seeing him come out of his shell more and more and I wasn't the only one saying it. Malcolm (Jenkins) and Zach (Ertz), a lot of guys were saying the exact same thing."
Once Matthews knew Bradford was set to be an Eagle in 2016, he was ready to get to work. The third-year player planned a trip out to Oklahoma to train with the quarterback back in March. Ertz joined the two and the trio enjoyed a week of weight training, throwing and getting to know each other better.
Spending time in Bradford's home was an experience that allowed Matthews to understand the quarterback's personality more so than he did before. He not only gained a new appreciation for the 28-year-old's intelligence on and off the field, but also for the quarterback's desire for privacy.
"Sam is a smart guy. I think people underestimate how really intelligent he is," Matthews said. "I tried to play him in some mind games when I went to go stay with him. I lost every single one and I went to Vanderbilt. ... He's good at a lot. He's good at everything. It's weird. I was like, 'You're not going to be able to beat me in Scrabble,' thinking I got him in the mind, but he's a smart dude. He's just very intelligent.
"I think sometimes he's looked at like he doesn't care or something or it's like he's just passive or whatever. He's not, man. He has a very competitive spirit. He's just very private. I think we all kind of learn something from each other, but that's the one thing from him that I learned. I go on social media every once in a while. During the offseason I use it a lot. In season, I kind of get away from it, but just spending time with him, he was like, 'I see no need for it.' Instead of me being like, 'That's dumb,' I actually heard him out and he made some really good points. You can just tell he's at peace with where he is. It was really cool to see. I like spending time with him."
In 2015, Matthews and Ertz accounted for over 42 percent of the Eagles' receiving production with a combined 1,850 yards and were Bradford's top two targets. Working together during these down months is only going to help enhance those statistics come September, especially because Bradford can fully participate in all the workouts.
For the first time in a few years, the quarterback is not coming off a knee injury, allowing him to take part in offseason training as opposed to rehab. Matthews said the difference was very apparent while he and Ertz were in Oklahoma.
"He had more of a bounce to his step," Matthews said of Bradford. "When we'd go to facilities to work out, he knew exactly what he needed for his body. Me and Zach, we're going to work out different than Sam, but he's not the type of quarterback that's going to go in there and, 'You all do your thing. I'll throw you a couple balls and then we'll dip.' No. He was going to make sure he was going and getting what he needed to work on, all the things he needed to help him stay healthy.
"Then once we came together to go throw, everything would go smoothly. I guess the most impressive thing too was the locked-in factor. We're so far away from playing a game, but when it was time to go throw routes it was like if we're going to do it, we're going to do it. You always like to see that from your quarterback."