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All-22 analysis: Buffalo Bills wide receiver Jordan Matthews might be a keeper

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Jordan Matthews’ 2017 showed plenty of promise for the Buffalo Bills

Jordan Matthews landed with the Buffalo Bills as part of a trade that sent cornerback Ronald Darby to the Philadelphia Eagles (where I’m sure he ended up a pretty happy camper). As only half of a pair of controversial trades, Matthews was acquired to ease the pain of losing Sammy Watkins. Watkins was often maligned by fans as “injury prone,” and Matthews’ historical durability was seen as a major positive. Naturally then, Matthews had a sternum injury in his first practice. This was followed up by a thumb injury where he missed one game despite needing surgery. Oh yeah, then Matthews suffered a knee injury that led to him being placed on IR. All told, he appeared in ten games.

Even in consideration of his missed time, Matthews’ one touchdown and 282 yards on the year don’t exactly “pop.” Appearing in a low volume passing offense makes numerical comparisons to his peers difficult, so what does the film have to say?

Play 1

Jordan Matthews is running a quick route to the sideline. As designed, it’s an immediate decision to Matthews or bust. Tyrod Taylor doesn’t pull the trigger before his pocket collapses and has to scramble. Kudos to Matthews who sees the trouble unfold and boxes out his defender to come back to give Taylor a safety valve. Matthews couldn’t win the foot race to pull away. He did put himself in good enough position to turn a five-yard route into an 11-yard gain on a busted play though.

Play 2

Matthews shows off a slick move here, using only a couple steps to turn 90 degrees and very neatly get away from Buster Skrine (41). Despite the ball reaching him as he’s approaching the sideline, he makes another good cut for some YAC. His sharp second turn is enough to slip the tackle though not completely untouched. Matthews shows some tightrope skills to stay in bounds as long as he can.

Play 3

Another sharp route puts Matthews ahead of his coverage and wide open. If he makes the catch it’s a safe bet he can turn upfield for a decent gain (we’ve just seen him make the needed sharp turn after all). However, this play is one where his route running wasn’t quite enough on its own. Matthews’ could use another gear to make this an easier catch. The second pause on this play shows the reason behind Taylor’s ball placement. Muhammad Wilkerson (96) is blocking a large section of possible throwing lane(s). This isn’t to say Matthews is 100% at fault, because sometimes you just gotta hand it to the opponent. However, a half step faster from Matthews and this is a big play.

Play 4

Let’s get back to crisp routes. Matthews pulls that 90 degree move again. It’s still Skrine and he hasn’t figured it out from earlier in the game. Darryl Roberts (27) is fortunately turned to the play and makes the tackle. Had he followed Andre Holmes up the sideline this might have been a much bigger play.

Play 5

As Buffalo Bills fans, it’s safe to say we know the importance of a wide receiver’s ability to block in the running game. Here’s a pretty representative example of what Matthews brings to the table. He’s not a powerhouse and you won’t see him laying into people like Robert Woods. He’s not going to shy away from contact though, and you’ll note he wins his match up on this play. One more block beyond Matthews and Shady might still be running. The play pauses to show you a little white blob on the upper arm of Rashard Robinson. That’s Matthews’ hand and it’s debatable whether he stayed inside the “frame” of Robinson. This could be called for holding. Playing Devil’s Advocate though, Matthews likely still gets the job done had be grasped a few inches more to his left.

Further Thoughts

In this offense and with less than a full season to go on, volume stats are bound to be problematic for Matthews. If we’re talking rate stats, Matthews’ 11.3 yards per reception is about half a yard shy of his career average. While that’s a drop-off you can’t ignore, it’s by no means catastrophic. The 11.3 rate isn’t going to turn heads, but with a career best of 13.0 for his rookie year, it’s likely that Matthews will never be in elite territory here. It’s not a bad rate either, with Matthews’ being higher than some notables like Larry Fitzgerald, Danny Amendola and more.

Ready for some fun trivia in the style of a popular game show? Well too bad, here it is anyway.

This phrase describes Jordan Matthews’ catch rate when paired with Buffalo Bills Quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

What is “the highest of his career?”

That’s correct! At over 69% catch rate, Matthews seems to have had good chemistry with the controversial signal caller. To put this rate into perspective, Matthews’ had the 15th-highest catch rate of any wide receiver in the league. No wide receiver was higher than 77%. It should be noted that Matthews only had 36 targets, so a pass or two can create a decent statistical swing.

Decision Time

Jordan Matthews is exactly the kind of player the current front office seems to love. Matthews quickly learned what was being asked of him and executed. Like so many key pieces of the upstart 2017 Buffalo Bills, Matthews won match-ups with heads up play and a commitment to the scheme. Injuries limited his time on the field significantly, but Matthews seems to have understood the play of Tyrod Taylor better than most.

Brian Daboll becomes our variable here as his preferences are somewhat guesswork at the moment. If he’s on the same page as Sean McDermott, Matthews should be a player they try to retain.