This offseason and the upcoming season is set to produce a rather interesting and perhaps unexpected position battle. While a battle for starting slot receiver may not seem like an interesting or even a very important one, pitting Jordan Matthews against Nelson Agholor is a battle that we’ll be able to watch all season long. But who has the edge here? While Jordan Matthews has been the subject of trade rumors all season and Nelson Agholor is seemingly still only on the team because of his cap situation, this battle may be closer than it seems.
To start, its clear that Jordan Matthews has the edge here. He’s been the Eagles go to receiver both in the slot and in general since he arrived in Philly, and in that time he has emerged as one of the most productive slot guys in the league. That being said, he isn’t without a list of issues. Drops, while often overstated by fans, have plagued him throughout his career. What’s more, he lacks the general speed, route running ability, and agility to produce yards after the catch that are usually coveted in slot receivers. What makes Jordan Matthews such a good slot option however is the mismatches he can create against usual coverages. Generally too big to be covered properly by slot receivers and to fast to be covered by linebackers, Matthews has been able to become extremely productive in the slot and both his consistency as a receiver and his incumbency give him a big edge.
When Nelson Agholor was drafted 20th overall, many drafted analysts (myself included) felt his skill set transitioned best into a slot role, a position he excelled in during his time at USC. And while 20th overall may seem high for a slot receiver, I felt it was justified because he was, in my opinion, the safest receiver in the draft class. However, with Jordan Matthews already excelling at his role, Agholor was forced to play outside, and this is where his problems began. Every Eagles fans is familiar with his lack of production, drop issues, and mental blocks that caused problems for both himself and the team. But things might be turning around this season for Agholor. The hiring of new Eagles WR coach Mike Groh has seemed to give him a lot of motivation, and with Matthews dealing with an injury, Agholor has look very impressive so far this offseason.
Who wins this battle is going to depend on a lot of different things as we start to move towards training camp. While Jordan Matthews holds the edge as the incumbent right now, a strong camp from Agholor and the fact the Matthews is on the final year of his rookie contract could shift the favor towards Agholor. And there’s little doubt he would excel at the position. But it’ll be an uphill battle. If he continues to be plagued by the struggles he’s faced throughout his career, it’ll be hard for the Eagles not to give Jordan Matthews a contract extension. Both receivers essentially hold their fates in their own hands, and the battle will be a fun one to watch. While I may be a little biased, I’d guess Jordan Matthews wins this battle. With a true number one receiver on the outside in Alshon Jeffery and plenty of young talent in guys like Mack Hollins and and Shelton Gibson, it’ll be hard for the Eagles to move away from the consistency of Jordan Matthews, but Nelson Agholor can certainly give him a run for his money.