Casey Matthews needed a fresh start. Things weren’t working for him under Andy Reid, which is really the same as saying he wasn’t working under Andy Reid. Either way, the linebacker needed a new beginning – which is what he and the rest of the Eagles got, except that the new beginning featured an old face for Matthews.

Matthews played for Chip Kelly at Oregon. When Kelly was hired to replace Reid, Matthews was intrigued. Then the phone rang.

“[Kelly] called me in mid-January and said how he was excited to change things around here,” Matthews said after the team’s final minicamp at the NovaCare Complex on Thursday. “Just basic stuff like that. Just looking forward to moving on.”

Matthews was probably thinking the same thing – that moving on sounded mighty good. There were high expectations for him coming out of Oregon. That’s what happens when you have a brother who left college before you, plays the same position, and developed into one of the best linebackers in the NFL.

It wasn’t quite so easy for Matthews. After being selected in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, Matthews went from an interesting pick to a starter to a backup to, last season, an afterthought. Now, like everyone else who’s lower in the pecking order than he’d like to be, Matthews is clinging to Kelly’s oft-cited statement that all jobs are open and no depth chart exists. (Yet.)

At some point in the not-too-distant future, Kelly will be forced to pick favorites and jettison everyone else. After practice on Thursday, the head coach acknowledged that it won’t be long before he thins the crowd.

“It’s a difficult time,” Kelly said. “They know that coming in. It’s just the sheer numbers. There’s 90 guys here and we start camp on July 25, and there’s going to be 53 [players] when the season starts on September 9. That’s just the reality of it. They know that going in, and they understand that.”

Matthews gets it. He knows things haven’t gone well for him in Philadelphia, and he’s aware that he’s fighting for a gig. Having his old college coach as his new pro coach won’t keep him off the unemployment line if he doesn’t perform well once training camp begins in late July.

“It’s nice having a familiar face, but you still have to compete,” Matthews said. “He’s not going to choose favorites just because I played for him in college.

“You still have to come out here and work hard, in the weight room, in the film room, and then show up on the field.”

Showing up on the field has been difficult for Matthews. The 6-foot-1, 245-pound linebacker started three games as a rookie, recording 37 tackles (28 solo) and one sack. But he quickly fell out of favor with Reid and his coaches and was dropped on the depth chart.

Last season, Matthews started just one game. He registered only six tackles all year (three solo).

A dip in playing time. A dip in quantifiable contributions. Those aren’t the trends you want to see if you’re hoping to keep the NFL paychecks coming.

“It was tough at first,” Matthews admitted. “When I look back, it was a good learning experience. You get thrown in there right away, then you get taken out ... stuff like that. It happens with every club. But they blew it up here.