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November 23, 2016

Addition of Paul Turner could give Jordan Matthews more chances to line up outside for Eagles

Doug Pederson and the Philadelphia Eagles are finally going to give undrafted rookie wideout Paul Turner a shot on Monday night when they host the Green Bay Packers.

How exactly that impacts the rest of the WR rotation – and specifically Nelson Agholor – remains to be seen, but on Wednesday we got our first glimpse of how it may impact the team's leading receiver.

Jordan Matthews currently leads the team in both passes caught (53) and passes dropped (6, depending on who you ask), but because he also leads the team in targets, his six drops on 86 targets don't look as bad as, say, Agholor's handful of drops on just 51 targets.

Somehow, the team's struggles at receiver run much, much deeper. They just aren't producing, plain and simple. Look no further than how their receptions break down according to position:

[NOTE: This only includes players currently on the roster.]

N. Agholor 51 27 264 9.8 1
J. Matthews 86 53 639 12.1 3
D. Green-Beckham 44 23 248 10.8 2
B. Treggs 6 2 69 34.5 0
Z. Ertz 46 35 337 9.6 1
T. Burton 24 14 155 11.1 1
B. Celek 10 7 107 15.3* 0
R. Mathews 11 11 94 8.5 1
D. Sproles 48 34 304 8.9 1
W. Smallwood 9 5 45 9.0 0
K. Barner 2 1 5 5.0 0
*Yes, that's Brent Celek with the most YPC out of any Eagles player with at least five receptions.

Or, to look at it another way...


That's not good. So why did it take so long to give Turner a shot?

"Well, a couple things," Pederson said. "One, keep working with our guys, the four guys that we've had up each week – five guys now with Bryce [Treggs] coming into the picture – keep working with them, and now just … It's that time of year where other teams are looking at your rosters, because it goes back to the injury question. Everybody is hurt. Everybody is needing somebody. 

"So you look at the practice squads around the National Football League, and so is it a way to maybe protect a player that you like? Yeah, sure, bring him up, put him on your active roster. But it also gives us a chance as coaches to evaluate that person, evaluate that player in practice and see if he's ready to take the next step, which is to play in a regular-season game."

The Eagles were hoping for an injection of life when they added the speedy Treggs to the roster following the release of Josh Huff, but he has just two receptions to this point. 

Turner's impact, however, could be felt much more quickly, mainly because of the role he'll play in Pederson's offense. 

"I see [Turner] more as inside," the rookie head coach said when asked where we can expect to see the 5-foot-10, 193-pound receiver line up on Monday night.

"Jordan [Matthews] has been inside," Pederson added. "Jordan is also equipped to play outside, as well. We can move him around in some different spots there. But I do see Paul as more of an inside receiver. Jordan can play both inside and out."

And according to Matthews, the third-year wideout out of Vanderbilt, that's music to his ears.

"I would love to [play more outside WR]," Matthews said. "I've talked about it before; whenever you don't have to be one dimensional, and teams can't game plan for you in one area, it's so much better. I think too many people make too much of a thing about being solely an outside receiver or inside receiver. 

"If you switch it up, which most teams do, then it's more of an element of surprise you can attack teams with."

The other thing Turner brings to the table is a set of reliable hands, something rookie QB Carson Wentz has desperately needed for much of this season.

"I like his competitiveness," Matthews said when asked to assess Turner. "He definitely brings the element of surprise, because when you look at him, he doesn't look too assuming. But he can go out there and make plays. So I like that about him. Like I said, he comes in every day and works hard. 

"He can catch the ball. He can go out there and make some spectacular catches – he made one in the preseason – so hopefully he can duplicate that same playmaking ability when he comes out and plays for us Monday night."

Combine those two things -- his ability to catch the ball and his role as a slot WR -- and Matthews sees him fitting into the Eagles rotation just fine.

"I like P.T. a lot inside. I think he's very dangerous in there," Matthews continued, adding that their still working out the kinks in practice. "And, like I said, if I do have to do more outside, I'm going to embrace it and go out and do the best I can."

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin