NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Rishard Matthews made a name for himself with the Miami Dolphins because of his rugged style of play. He fought for footballs in the air, and for extra yardage in the middle of the field.
It's why the Titans signed the veteran receiver this offseason.
When Matthews first arrived in Tennessee, however, he admits he had to sell himself again.
"I knew my abilities coming in, but I don't think the whole staff did," Matthews said on Thursday. "Just playing time, and when we brought Andre (Johnson) in. … In the beginning I don't think I had their trust completely."
It's safe to say Matthews has the trust of the coaching staff – and quarterback Marcus Mariota – now.
Matthews seen his playing time increase significantly, and in a five-week span, beginning with his performance in Week 5 at Miami, Matthews has 21 receptions for 240 yards and five touchdowns. In that time period, he tied with Tampa Bay's Mike Evans and Odell Beckham of the Giants for the most touchdown passes in the NFL.
"Now, I feel like I do have their trust, or I feel like it's getting there. I always knew what I was capable of, and I think Mr. (Jon) Robinson did as well,'' Matthews said of the Titans General Manager. "That's why he brought me here. But I feel like it is showing now. I like the direction things are going."
Titans coach Mike Mularkey and offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie have both praised Matthews recently. Matthews caught two touchdown passes last Sunday against the Chargers. He caught six passes for 63 yards in the game.
"(He's) making plays, really making some plays for us and being in the right place,'' Mularkey said. "The trust factor is going up with our quarterback. He definitely is making some throws and trusting that he is going to come down. He didn't make (an early catch against San Diego), and Marcus didn't even hesitate, came right back to him on a contested throw and made a great play."
Matthews is tied for second on the team with 33 catches, and he's second in the team with 447 receiving yards. Matthews leads the team with five touchdown catches.
"I think he's done a great job of creating separation,'' Mariota said of Matthews. "It's started here on the practice field. I think he's really taken it upon himself to do the little things in his route running, make sure he gets his depth, create separation however he can, either it's moving off the line or stacking a guy, so I think it's kind of carried onto the game field. Hopefully that will continue.
"I think his ability to break tackles and get some of those third downs or get more yardage depending on the situation helps keep the chains going."
Matthews, who played his first four seasons with the Miami Dolphins, said he was motivated by a public challenge from the coaching staff earlier in the season.
"I feel like it lights a fire under me,'' he said with a smile, recalling a critique from earlier in the year.
Moving forward, Matthews wants to keep the momentum going.
He wants to be a guy the team can count on week in and week out.
"When other defenses watch film they probably tell their guys I am going to go out there and do my best to make contested catches," Matthews said. "It is something I have always done, being a guy who is a bigger receiver, not as quick as some other guys.
"… I think things are coming along well. Marcus is doing a great job of finding me, and I'm just trying to get open for him and make plays. We communicate and … it shows a lot of trust."
Titans players take the field for Thursday's practice at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn)