As Eagles veterans officially check in for training camp Wednesday, Jordan Matthews' knee is among the main topics of discussion.
Matthews sat out much of spring work with tendinitis, which he said last month would not keep him off the field when training camp arrived. Matthews was among the Eagles wide receivers who worked with Carson Wentz in North Dakota earlier this month, and Wentz said Tuesday that Matthews moved well during those sessions.
But on Monday, Eagles coach Doug Pederson seemed to agree with a questioner who stated that Matthews will be limited when full-squad workouts begin Thursday. Pederson said he wasn't worried, because "we don't really play a game for a long time."
Asked what was wrong with Matthews' knee, Pederson said: "Nothing, just rehabbing it and keeping it healthy."
There is talk around the locker room that Matthews' issue is more serious than tendinitis. But there is talk elsewhere in the building that Matthews could have practiced more in the spring, that the real issue is his contract. This will be the final year of the rookie deal Matthews signed after being drafted in the second round in 2014. He will make $1,094,000, according to Spotrac.com. There has been no indication that the team, tight against the projected 2018 cap, has done anything toward extending Matthews.
As you've read before, the issue there might be how you assess Matthews, a big, hard-working slot receiver who lacks elite speed, and who has been known to struggle with drops. He is one of five receivers in NFL history to catch more than 65 passes for more than 800 yards in each of his first three NFL seasons. The other four are Randy Moss, Odell Beckham Jr., A.J. Green and Mike Evans.
Is that quartet where you would look when trying to determine where Matthews' salary should rank among his peers? The last two years, Matthews has been the best wide receiver in a really lackluster Eagles group. With Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and fourth-round rookie Mack Hollins added to the receiving corps this year, will Matthews still be as prominent?
Matthews made a brief locker room appearance Tuesday when reporters were present but brushed off questions, saying he would talk "in two days," presumably after the first full-squad practice.
This has the feel of something you might be reading about all season.
Pumping up Pumphrey
Rookie running back Donnel Pumphrey said he got up to 185 pounds as he prepared for camp, but was sick last week and reported at 178. The Eagles list Pumphrey at 5-8,176, which is what he measured and weighed at the NFL Scouting Combine. Pumphrey said he is doing lots of squats to try to build power through his lower body.
"Like I've said before, I know how to get away from taking big hits," Pumphrey said, in response to the question that comes up in every interview. "Whether it's getting down or getting skinny, it's my job not to take a big hit. That's what I'm here for, to stay as elusive as possible and make guys miss."
Pumphrey caught 100 passes in four seasons at San Diego State, but he noted that he did that lining up in the backfield – before the Eagles drafted him in the fourth round, he'd never run routes from the slot.
"I feel like once I master my routes, then everything will come easier," he said.
Carson Wentz said of Pumphrey: "The guy makes plays. He can catch the ball … He's as smooth as a lot of the receivers … He can do a lot of different things and it'll be interesting to see how we use him, for sure."
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said sixth-round rookie defensive tackle Elijah Qualls has "natural leverage," at 6-1, 321. "That's a kind way of saying he's short," Schwartz added. … Adam Zaruba, the rugby player from Canada the Eagles signed as a possible tight end, did not practice Tuesday because he lacked a work visa.