Jordan Matthews leads Eagles' young receivers

Jordan Matthews finished the season with 85 receptions for 997 yards and eight touchdowns. AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth

PHILADELPHIA -- This is the third part of our position-by-position look at the Philadelphia Eagles' roster as the team seeks a new head coach to replace Chip Kelly.

Today, we look at wide receivers. We’ve already examined the offensive line and running backs.

Starters: Nelson Agholor, Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews.

Backups: Josh Huff, Seyi Ajirotutu, Jonathan Krause.

Practice squad: Freddie Martino.

State of the squad: The Eagles’ wide receiving corps is a paradox. The team has invested high draft picks in wide receivers over the past two years, but the group hasn’t exactly dazzled.

Matthews is a perfect example. He caught 85 passes, tied for fourth most in a season in Eagles history, but his 977 yards were 24th most in team history. Arizona’s John Brown caught 20 fewer passes than Matthews (65), but gained 1,003 yards.

Matthews’ average per catch, 11.7 yards, was tied for 157th in the NFL. He also had a problem with dropping passes, especially early in the season.

But Matthews made a convincing argument for the Eagles’ wide receivers.

"Sometimes there’s dysfunction in growth," Matthews said. "I know everybody wants to see immediate results. There’s expectation and there’s reality. Jeremy Maclin -- I have all the respect in the world for him, Pro Bowl wide receiver -- he didn’t go for 1,000 (yards) until Year 6.

"Jeremy had time to grow into that receiver he was going to be. Nelson needs that time, too. Josh needs that time. I need that same time. The outside receivers, I know the numbers were down. But it’s going to get better."

Matthews was a second-round pick in the 2014 draft. Huff was taken in the third round that year. Agholor was the Eagles' first-round pick in 2015.

If Matthews is right and they are able to develop -- and if the Eagles are able to extend Sam Bradford's contract or find another good quarterback -- this wide receiver corps can develop into a quality group. But already, there are mock drafts being published that have the Eagles using the No. 13 pick of the draft on a wide receiver.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, except the Eagles do have other pressing needs.

Matthews led the Eagles in receptions and yardage playing mostly in the slot. Agholor, Cooper and Huff primarily lined up on the outside. Bradford seemed most comfortable throwing toward the middle of the field, making Matthews and tight end Zach Ertz his most effective targets.

One of the goals for 2016 has to be to develop a more effective deep passing game, especially to the outside receivers. The departures of DeSean Jackson and Maclin left the Eagles inexperienced there. Agholor, who caught 23 passes for 283 yards as a rookie, is the most likely candidate to develop into that kind of weapon.

As for Cooper, it bears watching whether a new coach decides to release him. His racially insensitive outburst back in 2013, captured on video and published online, created an awkward situation for the team. Cooper’s presence almost certainly fed into the charges that Kelly had difficulty relating to African-American players.

The case for Cooper wasn’t helped by his 21 catches for 327 yards while playing 527 offensive plays.

Seyi Ajirotutu played primarily on special teams and was very good on the coverage units. He only caught one pass for four yards all season.

Jonathan Krause was on the practice squad through Week 11. He played in two games.