Through the first five games of his NFL career, rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews hauled in 19 passes. He averaged 35.2 yards per game, had two touchdowns to his name and his team was 4-1. What more could he ask for?
Turns out, a whole lot.
And he didn't ask for it, he went out and took it. In Matthews' last five games, the rook has turned on the afterburners, catching 25 balls, averaging 76.4 yards per game and snagging four more touchdowns in the process.
He exploded for 138 yards and a pair of scores in the Eagles' Week 10 demolition of the Carolina Panthers, a game in which he felt his head coach and his offensive teammates helped him succeed.
"Coach (Chip) Kelly did a great job of putting me in positions where I could be in space, and Mark (Sanchez) definitely put the ball on point and helped me be able to create separation from some of the DBs," Matthews said of his breakout game. But the young gun didn't want to get ahead of himself just yet.
"But at the same time," he continued, "it was a big game statistically, but there are definitely a lot of areas that I feel I still need to improve on."
While he may not want to brag, there's definitely reason for the former Vanderbilt Commodore to enjoy the shine.
After piling up 104 more yards against the Packers in Week 11, Matthews is climbing the charts in a historically prolific rookie wide receiver class. Matthews ranks fourth among all rookie wideouts in yards this season with 558, and third in the group in terms of touchdowns with six. He, Buffalo's Sammy Watkins, Carolina's Kelvin Benjamin and Tampa Bay's Mike Evans have had huge impacts on their teams in the opening stanzas of their respective careers.
Matthews said, as he looks around the league, a big part of the rookie wide receivers' monumental success is that they saw windows of opportunity and wasted no time jumping at their chance.
"The biggest thing is, to whom much is given, much is required," Matthews explained. "That's what I think the biggest thing is. A lot of guys say there's a hard transition for a lot of receivers coming in, but I think with this class, we're all in situations where guys were leaving and we all got implemented in situations where you're going to be called upon really early."
|2014 Impact Rookie Wide Receivers|
|1/12||Odell Beckham, Jr.||NYG||6||48||463||3|
After 10 games, Matthews is closing in on the number of games he would play during a regular season at Vanderbilt. The most he ever played during his collegiate career was 13 games, which means after Week 14 his transformation to an NFL wide receiver will be complete. The rookie said that he feels very good about where he is as the season progresses.
"I'm definitely 100 percent," Matthews said matter-of-factly. "I really feel like the way that I trained in the offseason, the way I trained leading up to the season, is really built for how long the NFL season is going to be.
"I really look at it on a week-to-week basis. I'm always like, 'Can I play one more week?' Well, of course I can. If you look at it in the long run, you start looking too far ahead, then yeah it might seem like a lot of games. But then, in a nutshell, if I focus on today, I know it's not that bad and I can go out there and give it my full effort."
Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur wasn't shy in his praise of Matthews on Tuesday, talking about the way his rookie wide receiver has learned to work on the professional level in no time.
"He steadily trains, and he's steadily getting better," Shurmur said. "He's a grinder when it comes to doing things the right way. When you watch him train, he's sort of a model for what a rookie should be in terms of how he trains."
And Matthews said he's learned how to focus in that manner by learning from fellow wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, a player whom Matthews described as a steady constant in the locker room.
"It's kind of easy to say it, sometimes, with clichés," Matthews said, "but when you really think about it, it's hard for a lot of guys to come in and be consistent, and not just in one area but in all areas of being an NFL athlete and wide receiver.
"Maclin exudes that."
Matthews explained that Maclin is the same, day in and day out, never too high and never too low. Maclin's calm demeanor and ferocious work ethic has inspired the young wide receiver to pattern his game after the veteran.
"Just watching him do that over and over and over," Matthews said, "I'm trying to follow that lead and continue to make myself a better player."
And through 10 games, Matthews is doing a pretty good job.