The signing of Rishard Matthews back in March may not have rocked the football world, but I'm betting Marcus Mariota is pretty thankful for him come this fall. Matthews signed a three year deal with Tennessee, getting five million per season. So what exactly will the 26 year old receiver bring to the Titans? Let's dive in.
Matthews was the number two receiver for Ryan Tannehill last season in Miami. While he didn't offer the Dolphins with an explosive down the field threat, Matthews usually could be found in the middle of the field doing the dirty work. I was impressed with his toughness and his ability to make catches in traffic, which is something that the Titans lacked last season.
He ended up posting a pedestrian 43 catches in 2015, putting up 662 yards and four touchdowns, but he only appeared in 11 games. Matthews suffered a rib injury in late November that kept him sidelined for the remainder of the season. His 662 yards in 11 games still out-produced every Titan receiver in 2015 by over 100 yards. Delanie Walker led the team with over 1,000 yards, but Dorial Green-Beckham was the only wide receiver to even eclipse 500 yards. That should give you an idea of just how bad the wide receiver group was last season.
Matthews should at least bring some stability to the receiver room. I think he will essentially step into the Harry Douglas role from last season. Douglas (surprisingly) accumulated 71 targets last season, ranking second on the team. Matthews is a clear upgrade.
Here's a look at what he will bring to the middle of the field. Matthews finds a hole in zone coverage and Tannehill delivers an excellent ball to him. He hangs in the air and is able to absorb contact and hang on to the ball. This is a simple thing that the Titans failed to execute routinely last season.
He's a crafty route runner that excels in short areas. He gets single coverage here and wins immediately. Easy money.
Below is another contested grab from Matthews. It appears to be a deep dig route that Tannehill trusts Matthews to win. He's able to beat the closing corner for the ball, hanging on through contact. We've seen some flashes of this ability from DGB and even Kendall Wright, but nothing consistent.
This route below is beautiful and nearly unstoppable if run correctly. Its an outside comeback route and Matthews runs it to perfection. He gets outside and gets up the field only to break down and comeback to grab the ball on a key third down.
Remember all of those short to intermediate routes that Marcus Mariota made a living off of last season? Expect a lot of that from Rishard. He did his best work on simple routes like the one below.
The snaps I highlighted above are really nothing too special, but it shows a receiver doing the things that he's supposed to do. The Titans' receivers seemed to struggle with even the smallest of tasks last season, so bringing in a rock solid possession guy like Matthews should help out Marcus Mariota immensely. Having a guy that can win over the middle with consistency will be a big key for Mariota, who does most of his work in the intermediate area.
Matthews should take some pressure off of Dorial Green-Beckham and allow Kendall Wright to work more on the inside. Walker, Wright and Matthews are a pretty solid group, but Green-Beckham still holds the keys to making this a truly special passing offense. Maybe Rishard Matthews will allow DGB to take that next step forward.