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Eagles' Matthews downplays notion of No. 1 receiver

Jordan Matthews spoke to teammates Riley Cooper and Josh Huff, and the message he delivered was to disregard the perception that the Eagles need a No. 1 wide receiver after Jeremy Maclin left for Kansas City.

Jordan Matthews spoke to teammates Riley Cooper and Josh Huff, and the message he delivered was to disregard the perception that the Eagles need a No. 1 wide receiver after Jeremy Maclin left for Kansas City.

"People ask me about being the No. 1 wide receiver; Forget it," Matthews said in a telephone interview Thursday. "I want us to be a receiving corps. That's what I want it to be."

Maclin finished with 85 catches for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns last season while playing 87 percent of the snaps. Matthews was the Eagles' second-leading receiver with 67 catches for 872 yards and eight touchdowns. He played only 65 percent of the downs, staying as the team's slot receiver.

Matthews will likely play more in 2015 - and he could spend more time on the outside, where Maclin was featured.

"I think you would think that I might get a whole lot more outside reps now just because Maclin is gone, but I already had talked to coaches, and they were already going to implement me more on the outside as opposed to just the inside regardless," Matthews said. "I don't think that's a crazy, huge deal."

Kelly said last week that he can envision Matthews playing "a lot of different spots." Kelly kept Matthews in the slot because they wanted him to learn only one position as a rookie. Now that Matthews is more comfortable entering his second season, that role can expand.

Matthews said that he ran the whole route tree as an inside receiver, and that playing the slot helped him with navigating in traffic. He believes that will help him when playing on the outside.

The Eagles signed Miles Austin on Tuesday, but that likely is not enough to replace Maclin. Coach Chip Kelly expressed confidence in the development of Matthews and Huff, both Day 2 draft picks last season. The team also could use tight end Zach Ertz and running back Darren Sproles more in the passing game. Plus, Kelly believes wide receiver is the deepest position in the draft.

But the Eagles might not need only one player to make up for Maclin's absence. Matthews cited the Super Bowl teams as examples. He praised both New England's Julian Edelman and Seattle's Doug Baldwin, but neither team had a Pro Bowl wide receiver - or even a receiver who topped 1,000 yards. (Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski achieved both distinctions.)

"I don't think one 'No. 1 wide receiver' was in the Super Bowl this year, but they're two Super Bowl-winning teams that have receiving corps that work their butts off, that block in the run game, that catch the ball when they have to," Matthews said. "Whatever public perception about what they think we should look like or what they think we need, if we go out there and put a product on the field that wins games, then we can change all perceptions."

Matthews answered questions last summer about how the Eagles would compensate for the loss of DeSean Jackson. Then Maclin stepped into the offense and finished with a season comparable to the one Jackson had in 2013. His point was that nobody knows what a player can do until offered the opportunity to do it.

The offseason program begins April 20, and the first organized team activities come in May. That's when Kelly will be better able to gauge how players return after nearly four months working on their own.

Matthews spent time with trainer Andy McCloy in his native Alabama along with a few other NFL players, paying attention to speed and weight training. He then went to Florida, where he has worked with NFL Hall of Famer Cris Carter. The goal is to focus on more position-specific skills after spending last offseason preparing for the draft.

Matthews admired Carter from afar and wanted an accomplished receiver who can be honest with him about improvements. He tried contacting Carter via Twitter, but he could not send Carter a direct message. So he asked Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for Carter's number, and then cold-called Carter one day.

"I don't think he knew who was hitting him up on an Alabama number," Matthews said.

Matthews has already introduced himself to new quarterback Sam Bradford, and he's eager for his second season. But he wants to dispel the idea that he must step up to replace Maclin. Matthews sought to establish a reputation among his teammates and coaches last season as a dogged worker, from his effort in the film room to running every catch in practice all the way to the end zone. That won't change now that he'll need to take on a bigger role.

"I don't want to be that guy who just starts coming in early now that Jeremy Maclin's gone," Matthews said. "I've been doing that. My biggest thing is I have a standard set for myself. Whether Jeremy Maclin was there or not, bottom line, I'll still work my butt off and I'll still go into that second year with a lot of stuff going to be easier."