Matthews Becoming A Big-Play Receiver

Posted Dec 17, 2013

Gibson’s replacement is earning his stripes during win streak.

Ever since wide receiver Brandon Gibson went down with a season-ending knee injury at the New England Patriots on October 27th, Rishard Matthews has become a bigger part of the offense for the Miami Dolphins.

By the time Miami faced New England for a second time this past Sunday, Matthews was no longer a secret to opposing defensive coordinators and coaches. Yet he managed to frustrate Patriots head coach Bill Belichick at Sun Life Stadium both at the end of the first half and the end of the game in the Dolphins’ 24-20 upset, catching five passes for 64 yards.

“He made some big catches and had a big one too in the first half when he got out of bounds and saved some time. He made a nice contribution,” Philbin said. “I thought his route running was good. He really reached out and really plucked that one you are talking about in the first half. In the second half he did a nice job in a similar concept of a route, keeping his feet inbounds and those types of things. I thought he did a good job.”

Nobody has ever questioned Matthews’ toughness or his hands since he was taken in the seventh round of last year’s NFL Draft out of Nevada and came on strong at the end of the season. It’s one of the reasons Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman felt confident enough to only keep four receivers on the 53-man roster.

Through 14 games, Matthews has caught 36 passes for 381 yards and two touchdowns with four starts after Gibson went down. His best game statistically came at Tampa Bay on a Monday night when had 11 receptions for 120 yards and two touchdowns, but his most clutch performance came on Sunday with those two tough over-the-shoulder catches at the end of the first half and the end of the game. That 24-yarder that set up quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s 14-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Marcus Thigpen and not only did he adjust to the ball in the air but he was nimble enough to get both feet down.

“He took a page out of my book on that catch,” said wide receiver Brian Hartline, who leads the team with 72 catches for 925 yards and four touchdowns. “Guys executed in that win.”

Matthews has been good about giving credit to Hartline, Gibson and Mike Wallace for helping him develop into the receiver he has become and he has made it a habit to watch all of them closely in practice. He’s also quick to recognize everyone involved in the passing game, but he acknowledges that Hartline is still the best at the sideline catches.

“Me, Marlon (Moore) and Wallace had a couple of touches,” Matthews said. “But as everybody knows, Hartline is the master at it.”

Clearly, Matthews isn’t too far behind.
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