Rishard Matthews has had an up-and-down offseason. The Miami Dolphins traded Mike Wallace, Matthews moved up the depth chart. The Dolphins traded for Kenny Still, Matthews moved down the depth chart. The Dolphins cut Brian Hartline, Matthews moved up the depth chart. The Dolphins signed Greg Jennings, Matthews moved down the depth chart. The Dolphins released Brandon Gibson, Matthews moved up the depth chart. The Dolphins drafted DeVante Parker, Matthews moved down the depth chart.
Up and down. In the end, Matthews now finds himself in the exact same place on the depth chart as he was last year - fifth on a team that likes to use four receivers.
A seventh-round draft choice in 2012, Matthews has played in 38 games over three seasons, with six starts. He has a career total of 64 receptions for 734 yards with four touchdowns. He clearly felt he had earned a bigger role with the Dolphins this season, only to see it disappear as the Dolphins made offseason moves.
How will Matthews fit into the Dolphins offense this year?
The team will be looking to be more explosive this year, spreading out opponents with multiple formations and combinations of receivers. Matthews should be a vital part of that, especially with the recent foot surgery for Parker. He has the opportunity to become the fourth receiver for the team, building trust with quarterback Ryan Tannehill and giving the team a depth option in case of injuries.
Asked about Matthews' desire for a bigger role with the offense, Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin explained, "You have to have faith in yourself and that things will work out. I've had a number of conversations with Rishard over the years. I love his enthusiasm. He has confidence in his own abilities as you want players to have that. He wants to contribute. You want players to have that. He just needs to have faith that the right things will happen if you just keep working, staying positive and staying after it."
Philbin also looked toward Matthews' work in the team's Organized Team Activities this offseason, "Rishard's practiced well, he really has. He catches the ball with his hands. I know that sounds like a crazy thing for a head coach in the NFL to say about a wide receiver in the National Football League, but I think he really does a good job of catching the ball with his hands. He's not a body catcher. His play speed has been relatively good."
Matthews sees himself as buried on the depth chart. Miami appears to see him as an insurance policy if, or when, needed. Jennings, Parker, Stills, and Landry will likely see the majority of the snaps at the start of the season. Matthews, however, needs to be patient and continue to work, because his time will come. Injuries will happen, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will look to use Matthews as a different option in packages, and, if he continues to practice well, Matthews could simply earn the playing time for himself.
Miami is stacked with young developing talent at wide receiver. Matthews, while frustrated, is clearly among that group. It will just be a matter of the team finding creative ways to get him on the field. A season similar to Matthews' 2013 campaign, in which he caught 41 passes for 448 yards and two touchdowns, could be the mark for Matthews to aim. It's a mark that should not be too far off.