Rishard Matthews emerged as one of Marcus Mariota’s top targets in the receiver's first season with the Titans, setting career highs in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns with one game still to play.
But he wasn’t happy through the first several weeks of the season, when he was splitting starts and sharing playing time with Andre Johnson, a future Hall of Fame receiver who signed with the Titans on the eve of training camp.
“I was pissed. At the end of the day, I didn’t come here to sit on the bench or sit on the sideline,” Matthews told The Tennessean on Friday. “I didn’t come here to rotate with anybody. I signed here for a reason. So it definitely pissed me off.”
Matthews, who spent the previous four years with the Dolphins before signing a three-year, $15 million contract with the Titans as a free agent in March, leads the team with 831 receiving yards and eight touchdowns this season, and his 56 catches trail only Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker, who has 60. Matthews will have a chance to boost those numbers in the regular-season finale against the Texans on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
Matthews did get off to a bit of a slow start this year and this was likely a reason. Matthews caught his first touchdown of the season in a blowout victory against the Dolphins. It began a stretch of seven scores in eight games. Johnson, meanwhile, didn’t have a catch in the three games after that victory against Miami and abruptly retired on Oct. 31, just eight games into his tenure with the Titans.
So which receiver – or receivers – might benefit from Green-Beckham’s departure, keeping in mind the Titans are not likely to keep five on the final roster?
As for the veterans, it clears more room for guys like 31-year-old Harry Douglas and 35-year-old Andre Johnson. It seemed unlikely the Titans would keep both veterans – and that still may be the case – but it’s easier to make a case for that happening now.
The DGB trade could also breathe new life into Justin Hunter, a 2013 second-round pick who – like DGB – has suffered from inconsistency. Another player who benefits is Tre McBride, the second-year player out of William & Mary who spent last season on the practice squad. He wasn’t receiving much attention at the start of camp, but has come on strong over the last few weeks.
Titans WR Kendall Wright fell out of practice with a tweaked hamstring Tuesday, and we don't know if he'll be back when the team returns to action Thursday. Right now, when healthy, he's the slot receiver coming in to supplement outside guys Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe.
The emergence of 5th-round rookie WR Tajae Sharpe begs the question: What does it mean for veterans like Dorial Green-Beckham and Justin Hunter? Those players have been watching as Sharpe has lined up with the starters. Rishard Matthews has been the other outside receiver while Kendall Wright has been busy - and looked good - in the slot.
“I am hoping they are taking it personal, and they are going to come back in here in better shape, and better prepared and healthy and ready to go out of the gate,’’ Mularkey said when asked about Green-Beckman and Hunter. “(We want to see that) from the first practice on.”
This could just be a motivational ploy, but it's not like Green-Beckham has the sort of resume that buys hm a lot of leash when it comes to being in "better shape" or being "better prepared." DGB could be starting in Week 1, but the odds are less favorable than they were a month or two ago. Sharpe doesn't have a great athletic profile, but he has quickly ascended the Titans' depth chart. Owners looking for value may want to avoid DGB for the time being and target Rishard Matthews and/or Kendall Wright, who seem locked in as starters.
Only six active NFL players have a higher career yards-per-catch average than Kenny Stills (16.5), and Dolphins coach Adam Gase said he “definitely” wants to get him involved more after he was targeted just 63 times last season (compared with 165 for Jarvis Landry).
Stills says that excites him and “the numbers don’t lie” about Gase’s offenses.
But the chemistry must improve with Ryan Tannehill. Though a bunch of Stills’ targets were difficult deep routes (and that must be taken into account with this stat), he caught only 42.8 percent of passes thrown to him, compared to 70.4 for Rishard Matthews (now with Tennessee), 66.7 for Landry, 50.9 for DeVante Parker and 50 for Jordan Cameron.
Stills had only two drops last season, so many of the incomplete passes were errant throws by Tannehill. Gase has been impressed with Stills so far this offseason.
Through 11 weeks (and prior to his injury), Matthews was the #22 receiver in fantasy and was on pace for a 67-1059-6.4 season. Tennessee is not the ideal landing spot, though he'll enjoy solid QB play from Marcus Mariota and compete with Kendall Wright and Dorial Green-Beckham for targets in the team's passing game. He'll have to win a starting job to be fantasy relevant and even then it will be iffy given the lackluster performance of this offense.
Matthews has been placed on injured reserve. His roster spot has been filled via the elevation of linebacker Mike Hull from the practice squad.
Despite appearing in only 11 games, Matthews generated a career high in receptions, yards, and touchdowns with 43, 662, and four, respectively. He’ll be eligible for free agency in March. He was having a nice year before the injury, but since then, rookie DeVante Parker has filled in nicely. It will be interesting to see the plans of the Dolphins passing offense coming into the 2016 season with three legit WR options.
Friday, January 1, 2016, 6:26pm
Dolphins WR Rishard Matthews (ribs, questionable) took limited practice reps all week and is questionable for Week 17. Matthews says he does not expect to play this week, which means more snaps for DeVante Parker.
Wednesday, December 30, 2015, 6:13pm
Friday, December 25, 2015, 10:17pm
Dolphins WR Rishard Matthews (ribs, questionable) was limited Friday after taking full reps earlier in the week and is questionable for Week 16. The downgrade indicates Matthews is unlikely to play through the questionable tag. His absence is a boost for DeVante Parker.
Friday, December 25, 2015, 10:17pm
Dolphins WR DeVante Parker (ankle, probable) took limited practice reps again Friday and is probable for Week 16. The probable tag indicates that Parker is good to go for Week 16. With Rishard Matthews trending the wrong way, Parker is a Sneaky Start after three solid fantasy lines in his last four games. The Dolphins play early.
Thursday, December 24, 2015, 6:12pm
Wednesday, December 23, 2015, 6:11pm
Dolphins WR Rishard Matthews (ribs) practiced fully Wednesday. It looks like Matthews may make his return this week, but we would avoid starting him given the long layoff and the developing role of DeVante Parker.
Friday, December 18, 2015, 6:32pm
Dolphins WR Rishard Matthews (ribs, questionable) took limited practice reps all week and is questionable for Week 15. Matthews is working his way back. It’s not clear if he would immediately assume his starting role now that DeVante Parker is playing big snaps. The Dolphins play late, which will put Parker owners in a tough spot.
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