The preseason’s leader in receptions through two games is rookie wide-out Jordan Matthews of the Philadelphia Eagles. Actually, his 13 catches, 16 targets, 118 yards and 88 yards after the catch have him among the leaders in each of those basic receiving categories at this early juncture, but his PFF receiving grade sits at just -1.7. What gives?
We’re hoping to shed some light on the context we’re adding when we breakdown each play by taking you “Outside the Box” at times this season, looking at examples of the boxscore numbers not telling the whole story. There are already some interesting instances to point to, Ryan Shazier’s case was one and Matthews’ is another.
Firstly needing mention, Matthews’ second outing was obviously much better than his first and that’s reflected in his grades, but when combined, his performance in the opener drags his total into the red as even his nine-catch game against New England – which, on the face, was quite impressive — wasn’t enough to balance it.
Preseason Week 1, @ Chicago
Two drops against Chicago played a big role in the -3.0 receiving grade he earned that night, but on the four balls he hauled in, he managed a lone first down and just 14 yards (7 coming after the catch), failing to add much of anything with the ball in hand. It wasn’t all conservative routes that did him in, either. His grabs came on a short out, two drags and an unprotected WR screen route, but he had a pair of downfield chances that proved fruitless and left more potential positives on the field.
Preseason Week 2, @ New England
Surely his big bounce-back in the second week would at least recover the ground lost in that first effort, right? Afterall, nine catches and over 100 yards is a productive day of receiving by any standard. Turns out, he did take home a positive mark from our system, but it might not be quite as strong as a glance at the boxscore would suggest.
Highlighted by a third-quarter screen pass that saw Matthews slip past a couple would-be tacklers for a first down, this game was about the Eagles getting him the ball on the move or in space to see what could do with it after the catch. His grabs again came primarily on an assortment of drags and screens (and 49 of his YAC came on screens caught behind the LOS without worry of nearby coverage defenders), but he did also notch a downfield reception on a deep dig late in the second quarter.
Outside of the examples mentioned above, he put up a couple other efforts that gained notice, but there weren’t larger positives earned at any point. That left him with a handful of modest plusses (and a +1.3 receiving grade after normalization) from the few times he directly beat defenders and other limited examples of beyond-the-expected play. A positive day, just not on the scale a simple boxscore glance would tell you.
Taken together, the two game grades settle at a point below zero, but the importance of looking deeper is clear — there’s always more to the story than can be seen from the surface stats when searching for a true look at player performance. That deeper, more complete run through the details in order to paint the big picture is what we offer with our player grades.
Matthews is clearly talented and seeing so many chances again in his second outing had to help ease the jitters that may have been present that first time out. A step in the right direction for him and more reason to watch what he can do in the third week of preseason and beyond.
Follow Rick on Twitter: @PFF_Rick