Rookie WR Matthews Showing Promise

Posted Nov 19, 2012

Seventh-round pick had solid receiving debut.

There was no fanfare surrounding the moment late in Thursday night’s loss at the Buffalo Bills when rookie wide receiver Rishard Matthews caught his first NFL pass, but it served as validation for him.

When Matthews was taken in the seventh round of April’s NFL Draft out of the University of Nevada, the 6-foot, 210-pound California native was perceived as a long shot to make the final roster. Almost seven months later, he was hauling in a 19-yard pass from rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill over the middle with 1:17 left in a 19-14 game.

“It felt good because I have been practicing and working hard and I finally got the opportunity so I wanted to make the best of it,” said Matthews, who was targeted twice at Buffalo and drew a 30-yard pass interference penalty on the touchdown drive. “Knowing that my number might actually get called this week got me excited and I just wanted to make sure I knew all of my assignments and I was ready to go once I got in the game.”

Fortunately for Matthews, he had two teammates with inspiring stories serving as mentors to him – Davone Bess and Marlon Moore, and he and Moore are roommates. Bess was an undrafted free agent back in 2008 that stuck on the roster and is now a regular starter with a solid resume, while Moore was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2010.

Moore actually made his NFL debut in a reserve role at Buffalo in the season opener and made his first two NFL receptions on November 18th, 2010 against the Chicago Bears. That also happened to be a Thursday night game the week before Thanksgiving so he knew exactly what Matthews was going through.

“I talk to him the same way Davone talked to me my rookie year about how to stay focus, keep pushing and just let the little things go that my be bothering you,” Moore said. “I told him the day of and the night before, ‘Just get your mind right for offense. You’re going to have to be ready for special teams but for the most part I want you to be ready for offense because you’re a receiver, point blank, and you have skills so just be prepared.’ For him to go out there and play as well as he did, it definitely put a smile on my face because he’s come a long way.”

To Matthews, Moore has become like a big brother to him and Moore mentioned that the entire receiving corps was really proud of Matthews for how he has approached his job and was happy to see it pay off. The coaching staff also has taken notice, which is one of the reasons why he got on the field against the Bills in place of veteran Jabar Gaffney, who was dealing with a slight knee injury.

Head Coach Joe Philbin highlighted the pass interference penalty Matthews drew as a positive play on that late scoring drive and saw other good things out of his young receiver over the course of the game.

“We liked the play speed that he played with for his first game,” Philbin said. “He’s a young guy and you’re never quite sure until you get a guy out in a game how he will respond and I thought he played fast.”

Where Matthews really has benefited from having Bess and Moore to lean on is in the film room where they have been able to break down proper route running and techniques. All three of them played in the same conference in college, the Western Athletic Conference, with Bess at Hawaii and Moore at Fresno State.

“They have both taught me a lot about being a professional on and off the field,” Matthews said. “Brian Hartline also has been a big help and they all take their jobs seriously, which is how I like to approach it.”

As far as what else Matthews brings to the position besides the intangibles and the work ethic, Moore has been impressed with the physical attributes his protégé offers.

“He’s strong and he’s a real physical guy,” Moore said. “He’s about the same size as me in terms of the same height and body type wise but he’s like a solid mass. Once he gets the rock he’s not going down easy and that’s one of his best attributes, which is to catch the ball of course and then to go ahead and be able to drag players and impose his will.”