Matthews finds niche, wouldn’t change a thing

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Casey Matthew’s rookie season got off to a tumultuous start to say the least.

His struggles in the early season were almost like a microcosm of the entire team’s shortcomings. It’s hard to think of a more appropriate image to represent the early season struggles than Matthews’ chasing Brandon Jacobs down the field in Week 3 as an ill-prepared middle linebacker.

But in the past two weeks, Matthews’ rookie season has been resurrected in the nickel package. The 22-year-old has seemed to find his niche in the Eagles’ nickel. In the past two games, Matthews has been in the collective fans’ focus, not for poor play, but instead, for making some big plays.

Has it been like a fresh start?
“Yeah, in a way,” Matthews said. “Obviously, it was the first time playing since early on. It was just nice being back out there. And, especially, getting the better grasp of the defense and getting back out there made it easier.

“Obviously, I got the whole first three games blamed on me but I was looking to get back out there to prove them wrong.”

It has been only two games since Matthews has been given more playing time, but so far, he’s made the most of it. Against the Dolphins, he had a big sack and three tackles. And against the Jets he made his impact felt on the first series in back-to-back plays. First, he tackled LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield for a loss and on the next play helped Kurt Coleman jostle the ball loose from Santonio Holmes.  
“It was a good feeling,” Matthews said. “I’m just so happy I’m back out there, that’s really what it was. I knew the opportunity was going to come I just needed to go out there and take advantage of it.”

According to, in the first three weeks of the season, Matthews was in on 80.8, 82.8 and 64.2 percent of the snaps. In the next six games, his most playing time came against Arizona — when he played only 5.2 percent of the snaps. In the last two weeks (74.6 against Miami and 37.7 against New York), he has seen his playing time increase.

Matthews said he never got down on himself or became disappointed when the early season didn’t go well. He admitted that “possibly” he might have been better off if he’d been used in his current role at the beginning of the season but doesn’t have any regrets about the way things happened.

“I was learning on the go,” he said. “The first couple weeks, I didn’t have a grasp of the defense yet. But I wouldn’t change it. It helped open my eyes to get to know the business side of the NFL and I think it helped me become a better player.”

E-mail Dave Zangaro at [email protected]

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