Miami Dolphins

Once a forgotten man, Miami Dolphins’ Rishard Matthews having season to remember

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Rishard Matthews (18) celebrates a play against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Rishard Matthews (18) celebrates a play against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. AP

Rishard Matthews rarely minces words.

Remember, he’s the Dolphins receiver who, for a short time in the spring, demanded a trade or his release because he feared another season buried on Miami’s depth chart.

So even in this most unexpected breakout season — he already has set career highs in catches (42), yards (647) and touchdowns (four) — Matthews at times had the urge to lobby for even more passes to be thrown his way.

Then he watches the game film — most specifically, video of Ryan Tannehill regularly getting creamed — and wisely thinks better of it.

“Sometimes as a receiver, you don’t know what’s going on,” Matthews said at Tuesday’s Touchdown Club luncheon, held at the Miramar Bokamper’s. “You think you’re open and you’re like, ‘Dang, man, get me the ball.’ And you don’t watch the whole play until the plane ride afterward.

“We were watching him drop back [against the Eagles], and some of the times he drops back, he had no time at all. That made me bite my tongue a little more when it comes to complaining about the ball. He’s a tough son of a gun.”

Tannehill’s toughness is nothing new. He has been sacked a staggering 166 times in 57 career games, yet has never missed a start.

What is a refreshing change this year: Matthews’ improved play, and his improved outlook.

It was just six months ago that he wanted out. The Dolphins, already deep at the position, had just drafted DeVante Parker in the first round, and the message seemed clear:

“I just saw myself as the No. 5 and I felt like I’m more than that in this league,” Matthews said.

Was he ever right. Half a year later, a case could be made that Matthews is the Dolphins’ best receiver.

He leads the Dolphins in receiving yards and touchdowns, and his 15.4 yards-per-catch average is sixth among all NFL players with 40 or more receptions.

Matthews is on pace for 1,150 receiving yards, which would be the sixth-most productive season by a receiver in Dolphins history. He needs to average just 50 yards a game over the final seven games to crack 1,000.

The breakout season is a surprise to everyone but him.

“I felt like I’ve always shown this staff what I can do, or else I wouldn’t be here,” Matthews said.

And yet, he might not have even gotten this opportunity if not for Parker’s pesky foot injury. Matthews mostly plays the “X” receiver position — presumably the spot the Dolphins had envisioned for Parker before his medical setback.

Now the Dolphins face a problem few would have imagined back in the spring: Can they afford to let Matthews walk as a free agent this coming spring?

Despite his great promise, there’s no guarantee Parker will ever have a season like Matthews is enjoying right now. Parker has twice needed surgery on the same foot and still isn’t completely right.

Meanwhile, industry insiders estimate Matthews will command a contract that pays him between $4 million and $6 million a year.

“We don't talk about that yet, but soon we will. … I’m not nervous at all,” he said. “I feel like I put myself in a good position. If it doesn’t work out here, it’ll work out somewhere else.”

▪ Of the NFL’s two remaining undefeated teams — New England and Carolina — the Patriots worry Bob Griese the most.

Griese, the quarterback of the league’s only unbeaten Super Bowl champion, said at Touchdown Club that if New England goes 19-0, “I’ll be the first one to call Tom [Brady] and say, ‘Congratulations.’ ”

However, “I don't think Coach [Don] Shula is going to call [Bill] Belichick.”

Shula has verbalized his strong feelings about New England’s coach, most notably calling him “Beli-cheat” and chiding the Patriots for their alleged ball-deflation scheme.

▪ Jelani Jenkins’ ankle injury might be serious. The Dolphins on Tuesday added veteran linebacker James-Michael Johnson — who has started 18 games in his career — and waived center Sam Brenner to make room on the roster.

▪ Miami also signed versatile offensive lineman Chris Martin to its practice squad.

▪ The Dolphins announced five more members of their 50th anniversary team Tuesday: Bob Brudzinski, Norm Evans, Mike Pouncey, Patrick Surtain and Jason Taylor.

▪ As part of the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign, Bank of America will distribute 50,000 rollabanas (hand-held, self-rolling banners) at Sunday’s Dolphins-Cowboys game.

Miami Herald sportswriter Barry Jackson contributed to this report.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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