Perhaps more so than talent and work ethic, opportunity — getting it, taking advantage of it — shapes careers. For example, ask Dolphins wide receivers Rishard Matthews and Kenny Stills about where they stand two games into the season and they point to opportunity.
Stills has three catches for 20 yards. He’s been thrown to only seven times. Those statistics match a running back who gets yanked on passing downs, not a deep threat the Dolphins traded for to fill the role from which the Dolphins fired Mike Wallace via trading him to Minnesota.
You can’t threaten to stretch the field without being on it. And for 53.6 percent of the Dolphins offensive snaps, Stills position has been “bench.”
“That’s just kind of the coaches’ decision,” Stills said. “He’s got the guys in he wants in to play. It’s above my pay grade to worry about those things. I’ve been preparing myself to play. I’m healthy and I feel great. That’s the way the coach is game planning. So we just go with that.”
His last two seasons started similarly. Three catches for 96 yards after three games in 2013. But that’s to be expected as a rookie fifth-round pick on a loaded New Orleans offense. And 67 of those 96 yards came on one play in one game.
Stills’ 2014 season moved along in a mundane manner until Brandin Cooks’ hand injury. The season’s final six games saw Stills catch 32 passes for 500 yards, over half his season production of 63 receptions for 931 yards.
“It just gave me an opportunity to make more plays because Brandin was down,” Stills said. “I just tried to do the best I could to help the team and capitalize on those opportunities.
“I feel like I’ve always been that type of player,” he continued. “When I got to college [Oklahoma], we had Ryan Broyles there and I was just capitalizing off the double teams he was getting and the single coverage I was getting. I was able to do that with [tight end] Jimmy [Graham] in New Orleans and capitalize on the opportunity when Cooks went down.”
That’s just kind of the coaches’ decision. It’s above my pay grade to worry about those things. I’m healthy and I feel great.
In contrast, Matthews has 10 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown, right around the 12 catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns he compiled the entire 2014 season.
“My second year, I was very productive,” said Matthews, referencing the 41 receptions for 448 yards and two touchdowns of 2013. “Last year … I don’t know what happened last year. But that’s in the past.”
While Matthews asked for a trade this past offseason and didn’t show up for voluntary workouts, he showed up for training camp ready to fight for an NFL job here or elsewhere.
“It’s not a secret what happened [in the offseason]. It was voiced that people wanted to see people go out there and compete,” Matthews said. “That’s the way I took training camp and taking advantage of every ball thrown my way.”
Matthews said, “That’s my mindset: try to take advantage of the any opportunity I get.”
Neither left tackle Branden Albert (hamstring) nor tight end Dion Sims (concussion) practiced Friday and both were listed as doubtful on the Dolphins’ Friday injury report. Sims was limited on Wednesday and Thursday, but Albert hasn’t practiced all week.
Running back Lamar Miller (ankle), tight end Jordan Cameron (back) and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell all were tabbed questionable after limited participation Friday. It was Mitchell’s first practice of the week.
Also, quarterback Ryan Tannehill was listed as probable after being limited Friday with ankle and back problems.
For Buffalo, wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (ribs) didn’t practice Friday and will be out Sunday. Running back LeSean McCoy was limited Friday, but is probable for Sunday. Wide receiver Percy Harvin (hip) is probable.