The Jets signed Rishard Matthews to a contract this week, so I wanted to take a look at some plays from 2017 to give a mini scouting report on the receiver. As some of you know, I work as a realtor in Nashville, but also write film breakdowns for the Tennessee Titans. I broke down film last year for select games, so I went into the archives to pull out some film, albeit it doesn’t paint a full picture. I’ll provide my personal scouting report down near the end of this article.
We have our first bad pass play from this game, and it’s a huge miss on the part of Marcus Mariota. Delanie Walker goes in motion on this play, and his defender follows him across the field, a good indication of man coverage. The Titans have a bunch receiver formation to the left of the line, and Mariota stares down Walker for the entire route. Rishard Matthews is wide open down the middle of the field for an easy conversion, but Mariota doesn’t progress from his first read on Walker, even though the receiver was all but triple covered on this play. On a crucial third down play, Mariota has to do a better job of scanning the field, because Mathews is open for a major gain on this play.
For this play, the majority of the focus needs to be on Rishard Matthews. Notice the position of the cornerback giving inside leverage on this play, which once again indicates that he has help the inside with safeties over the top and linebackers underneath. Matthews runs a straight route splitting the cornerback and the safety, and then notice when he makes his break. The cornerback and safety both turn their hips simultaneously on this play, which allows him the extra time needed to gain separation. It is vital that he splits the defenders for this to be effective, otherwise one of the defenders will be in position to drive on the route. Hypothetically, if Matthews ran towards the corner back on this route and then did the comeback route, the safety doesn’t have to protect a crossing route and can drive towards him quicker. Since Matthews splits the defenders, the cornerback needs to be concerned about an out route, while the safety has to be concerned about a crossing route as they are turning their hips, which causes them to react slower. It’s a good throw by Mariota as he faces pressure.
This is the first pass of the game, and it goes for 18 yards to Rishard Matthews. The Browns are in zone cover with two deep safeties, and this play is a very simple read for Mariota. The read on this play is the slot linebacker that is covering Eric Decker. If the linebacker falls back towards Matthews, therefore leaving the outside corner with the responsibility of covering the slot receiver, then the throw goes to Decker. The outside cornerback wouldn’t be able to close the gap in time to cover the receiver, thus an easy completion. However, if the slot linebacker bites on the route to Decker, then Matthews has inside release on his cornerback with a deep safety, meaning he will be open in the intermediate area, which is exactly what happens. From Mariota’s perspective, he is just reading the linebacker in this situation because he is the key to the decision-making process. It’s a great read and throw by Mariota.
If you read the previous articles, we like Rishard Matthews, because he’s an under-rated receiver in the NFL. If you are a Matthews fan, this play isn’t for you, because it’s a horrible drop from the receiver. The receiver goes in motion and the defender doesn’t follow him, but rather hands him off, thus indicating zone cover. That late motion means the defense has to switch responsibilities, which means the linebacker on the other end now goes into coverage instead of rushing the passer. That responsibility has now switched to the linebacker on this end (the one who handed off the motion receiver) which makes him a late entrant in rushing the passer. Once the defender rushes towards the line of scrimmage, the Titans have the Bengals right where it wants them. Once that defender moves, there are three receivers being defended by two cornerbacks, thus it’s just a numbers mismatch. If the cornerbacks go back with the receivers, then the quick pass to the Adoree’ Jackson, staying back is wide open. Therefore, Mariota just has to pick the best option, and he makes a great decision on the throw. It’s a perfect throw from Mariota to Matthews, but it’s just flat out dropped. A possible TD is taken off the board with this horrible drop.
The first play of this game shows why Rishard Matthews is a good player, and under-rated on the national level. Notice the route on this play, because he makes a great attack on the cornerback. He first strides right at the cornerback without giving up his intentions, making his move when the distance between the defender and himself minimal. The late move causes the defender to turn his hips at a greater degree. Once the hips of the defender have been turned, this come back route is set, because the defender must do a complete 180 degrees turn to keep up, while the runner only needs to turn 90 degrees. This will naturally cause the receiver to win the route, and that is exactly what happens in this case. However, Mariota is late with this pass, because this is a play where the receiver needs to get the ball as soon as he’s coming out of the break. However, Mariota is delayed and only starts the throw once he sees Matthews is open on the play. The delay in decision making is an issue for Mariota because the spread system in college is based on reading open receivers, instead of advantageous matchups.
A great pass by Mariota, and then some yards after the catch from Rishard Matthews. There is only one thing to notice on this play, and that’s the timing of this throw. Mariota has started his throwing motion when Matthews makes his first move down the field, and the ball is out before the receiver is open. This is a great throw with anticipation when the receiver is well covered, and can be an example of throwing the receiver open. You will hear the term a lot during the draft when it comes to evaluating young quarterbacks. This is a prime example of it because the defender has Matthews well covered on this play, and there is a very small window of opportunity, and Mariota nails it.
These are all plays taken directly from what I wrote at the time, and you can see some of the talent from Matthews.
He’s a top tier No. 3 receiver, and a bottom tier No. 2 receiver at this point. I thought he had the potential to be a good No. 2 receiver but injuries seem to have slowed him down.
Speed: He ran a 40 slower than David Harris, but plays faster on the field. The Titans used him as a deep threat at times, and he can run away from defensive backs at times. He’s not going to run by Robby Anderson or be a deep threat extraordinaire, but he has enough speed to run by defenders if they are sitting on intermediate routes.
Route: He’s a very good route runner, very much in the mold of Eric Decker. He sets up defenders with routes, understands hip manipulation, and maintains speed in and out of breaks. This is probably my favorite part of his game, as he sets up his routes extremely well.
Hands: He does have a tendency to drop passes at times, especially concentration drops but he’s not Stephen Hill by any means. He will also make some tough catches in traffic.
System Fit: I think he fits the Jets system better than the Titans, mainly because I think Sam Darnold has better anticipation than Marcus Mariota at times. He’s a player that thrives on timing and route running, which should fit with Darnold, although Kearse would fit the same mold, and he’s struggled so far this year. The Titans offense last year thrived on running the ball and smash mouth football, similar to Rex Ryan, so it was hard to see the true talents of receivers.
Blocking: This is hit or miss as I’ve seen him miss easy blocks as well as being able to set the edge on some runs.
Injury: This is the big caveat, because I’m basing this on 2017 Rishard Matthews, and I do not know if he’s back to his normal self.
Player Comparison: The Jets version of Eric Decker. He’s someone that is reliable with good routes, but won’t set the field on fire. There are some injury concerns but when they are (or in Decker’s case were) on the field, it’s a reliable second or third target.
There is some bad blood between the fans and Matthews because he signed an extension, and then immediately complained about how he wasn’t a big enough part of the offense, even though the Titans were playing a backup QB, and trying to incorporate their youngsters.
I like the move for the Jets, mainly because it means Andre Roberts or Charone Peake aren’t out there running routes at crucial times. This is not a game changer addition, but it will help stabilize the field for Darnold, assuming Matthews can get caught up on the playbook.