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Scouting Jets wide receiver Rishard Matthews

NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week, the Jets signed former Miami and Tennessee receiver Rishard Matthews. We’re going to take an in-depth look at his strengths and weaknesses.

The 29-year-old Matthews is listed at 6-foot-0 and 217 pounds, and was a seventh round pick in 2012 out of Nevada. He spent his first four years with the Dolphins and then joined the Titans in 2016, but they released him earlier this month. Matthews caught 53 passes for almost 800 yards and four touchdowns last year.


Matthews initially went the junior college route, graduating from Bakersfield College before transferring to Nevada. He was one of Colin Kaepernick’s favorite targets during his two years there, catching 147 passes for over 2,200 yards and 13 touchdowns in his two seasons. Matthews was a second-team all-WAC selection.

Matthews participated in the scouting combine even though he still wasn’t fully healthy following an injury at the end of the season. He performed well at his pro day and was selected by the Dolphins in the seventh round in the 2012 draft, although he had been a projected mid-rounder.

With Miami, he caught 12 passes in his rookie year, but started to emerge in year two, with 41 catches for 448 yards and two scores. After a disappointing year in 2014 saw his production fall again, he broke out in his contract year with 43 catches for 662 yards and four touchdowns, despite missing the last five games. At this stage, he was starting to earn a reputation as one of the NFL’s most underrated receivers.

The Titans signed Matthews to a three-year deal and it paid off immediately as he posted career bests of 65 catches, 945 yards and nine touchdowns in his first year with them. While his production dipped slightly in 2017, he still had a good year and he led the team in touchdown catches with four. He also finished third on the team in receptions and second in receiving yards.

Although he signed an extension which gave the Titans a team option for $8 million in 2019, Matthews fell down the depth chart due to a training camp injury and didn’t get many opportunities once the season began. He had just three catches for 11 yards in three games before his request to be released was granted. The Jets, with injury issues at the receiver position, signed him a few days ago.

Let’s move onto some further analysis of what Matthews brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.


Matthews ran just 4.62 at the scouting combine, which damaged his reputation, even though he ran in the mid-4.4’s a few weeks later at his pro day. He reportedly still wasn’t fully healthy at the time, although his agility, strength and explosiveness numbers were actually above average-to-good across the board.

A lot of scouting reports from when he entered the league cast doubt upon whether he has the speed and acceleration to be able to create separation at the pro level, but these reports seem to have been proven incorrect.


Matthews is a versatile player, capable of producing both out wide and in the slot. While in Tennessee, the majority of his production came from when he was out wide, although he still had some decent production whenever he was targeted in the slot, including four of his nine touchdowns in 2016.

He would also motion over to the tackle’s shoulder to operate as an H-back from time to time and has carried the ball from time to time, mostly on jet sweep type plays.

Deep threat

Matthews came into the NFL with a reputation as more of a possession receiver but he has had some decent success on downfield routes at the pro level.

He doesn’t necessarily display the speed to blow past and run away from a defender but does possess a second gear that can get him a step on his man. Generally speaking, he mostly relies on play-action or double moves to get behind the defense, although he’s also proven capable of going up to catch contested throws down the field.

As you can see, he runs a good route to get himself open here, but doesn’t have the speed to outrun the defender to the end zone, although he still finds a way to score.


Matthews is a decent route runner who has had success on a variety of different routes. Here’s a good example of a crisp route to lose his man.

He runs his routes with good precision and is capable of making sharp breaks and using a burst of speed to get open on intermediate routes.


Matthews is capable of making some spectacular catches and seems especially adept at making contested catches in a crowd or over a defender. He also shows good dexterity when making catches over by the sideline and getting his feet inbounds. He lays out for a nice diving catch here.

Matthews has a catch rate of 64 percent over the course of his career, which is an acceptable number for someone who runs a lot of downfield routes. Although his hand size is below average he looks natural catching the ball and he’s never had many issues with dropped passes with just 14 in his career so far. In fact, his drop rate was the sixth lowest in the league two seasons ago.

He also displays some good ball security as he has only fumbled twice in his career so far, losing just one.

Red zone

Matthews’ ability to make contested catches or get a step of separation on short/intermediate routes makes him a dangerous red zone threat. 13 of his 21 career touchdown catches have come in the red zone, including six from inside the five-yard line.

Yards after the catch

Matthews has good strength and will often be able to turn his man upfield to fall forward for a few extra yards after the catch, often to secure the first down.

He can be a big play threat, even on short passes, because while he perhaps lacks true gamebreaking speed, he can accelerate into the open field and is a creative open field runner who can break tackles.


Matthews has graded out well for his blocking over the years and was in the top 10 for run blocking at the wide receiver position a few years ago, according to Pro Football Focus.

Again, he is able to exploit a strength advantage over many defensive backs and he generally seems to take good angles, extend his arms and make an effort.


Matthews has improved his physicality at the pro level, as the book on him coming out of college was that he was easy to jam or bump off his route. Since being in the NFL, he’s shown an ability to be strong at the point of the catch and fights for yardage with the ball.

One of Matthews’ best traits is that he’s not afraid to go over the middle and can hang onto the ball when making a catch in traffic.

Matthews has only been flagged for five penalties in his career, three of which were pre-snap penalties. The other two were a face mask and an offensive pass interference call.

Special Teams

Matthews is a possible return option, having returned 48 punts for 551 yards and two scores at Nevada. He was working as the Titans’ punt returner earlier this season and has 47 yards on five returns in his NFL career. He also had seven special teams tackles in kick coverage in his first six NFL seasons, with five of them coming in 2014.


Working with a quarterback who can extend plays like Marcus Mariota has given Matthews opportunities to work on his ability to improvise and there are examples of him finding open spots in the defense on such plays.

Matthews also displays some good instincts as a ball carrier in the open field, perhaps from his time as a punt returner.


Matthews has courted controversy off the field a few times and may have some teams concerned about his commitment after he asked to be released by the Titans, having previously asked the Dolphins to trade him in 2015. However, the Jets have praised how hard he has been working since he arrived with the team, as he prepares to hopefully give the Jets some immediate contributions while they need them the most.

On the field, Matthews can be a fiery player, who has been involved in a few scuffles with opposing players.


Matthews missed nearly all of training camp and all four preseason games due to a knee injury, which had him placed on the PUP list until late August. That’s what led to him falling down the depth chart. It was also a knee injury that slowed him down at the combine, as he had suffered an MCL injury at the end of his senior year.

In 2017, Matthews missed two games with a hamstring injury and he missed the last five games in 2015 after Calvin Pryor’s hit left him with multiple broken ribs.

Scheme Fit

The Titans installed a west coast style offense this year, although Matthews missed most of camp and preseason. Prior to that, he had enjoyed his best success with the Titans in a non-west coast offense. However, his precise route running should lend itself well to the Jets’ own system.

Former teammates of Matthews include Deontay Burnett, Neville Hewitt and Avery Williamson.


Matthews is a talented player who fell out of favor early in the season. He was slow to return from a knee injury and then frustrated with his reserve role in Matt LaFleur’s new system, leading to him requesting his release.

However, he almost had a thousand-yard season in 2016 and was almost as productive in 2017. The Titans instead opted to give most of the reps and targets to younger players in 2018, but Matthews will be determined to prove he still has plenty left in the tank.

Once Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa are healthy again, Matthews might once again find himself in a situation where he’s no longer getting the looks he desires, but for now, he’s under pressure to produce so that he can continue to get opportunities. While he may not be part of this team’s long-term future, he has every reason to be motivated to do well.