49ers’ 2019 ‘Who Is?’ series: Wide receiver Jordan Matthews

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 23: Wide receiver Jordan Matthews #80 of the Philadelphia Eagles warsm up before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lincoln Financial Field on September 23, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 23: Wide receiver Jordan Matthews #80 of the Philadelphia Eagles warsm up before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lincoln Financial Field on September 23, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers added veteran wide receiver Jordan Matthews during the offseason, who looks to have an excellent chance to make the 53-man roster in 2019.

Simply put, the San Francisco 49ers needed quite a few upgrades at wide receiver heading into 2019 after no one at this position even reached 500 receiving yards a year ago.

One of those moves was to bring aboard the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Jordan Matthews on a one-year deal, worth $2 million.

Matthews enjoyed three productive years after being drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in Round 2 back in 2014. Yet that production fell off in 2017 and 2018, where he spent one year with the Buffalo Bills before returning to Philly.

Jordan Matthews Receiving Table
4 yr4 yrPHI6039374245297312.121784.149.665.5%7.93
1 yr1 yrBUF107362528211.31472.528.269.4%7.81

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/15/2019.

One could argue, though, Matthews wasn’t utilized correctly in Buffalo and was something of an afterthought with the Eagles last year.

And while it didn’t appear Matthews was guaranteed to make the 49ers’ 53-man roster once the Niners brought aboard rookie wideouts Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd in this year’s NFL Draft, a strong showing in both organized team activities and mandatory minicamp have certainly given Matthews’ stock a major boost.

Assuming this is enough to ensure Matthews sticks around, what will San Francisco be getting from the soon-to-be 27-year-old wide receiver?

Why Jordan Matthews Improves in 2019

Matthews’ trade departure to the Bills in 2017 wasn’t exactly a good thing for his numbers, as Buffalo’s passing offense ranked next to last in the league that year. Upon his return to the Eagles, Matthews was then relegated to depth and saw just 28 targets.

In this case, the nature of Matthews’ role will be what’s important. Head coach Kyle Shanahan’s wideouts have generally lacked height the past two seasons, so Matthews’ frame already makes him one of the bigger targets on the offseason roster.

San Francisco needs a red-zone presence, too, after finishing last in red-zone touchdown efficiency a year ago.

One should note 16 of his 22 career touchdowns have come within this area. If he can capitalize on that kind of role, as well as thrive in the innovative offense Shanahan has designed, there should be plenty of statistical improvement for Matthews over the course of 2019.

Why Jordan Matthews Regresses

Matthews was plagued by drops early in his career, having 21 over his first three seasons in Philadelphia, according to Pro Football Focus. And while he had just three combined between 2017 and 2018, the relatively few targets he received during that stretch doesn’t exactly excuse those numbers.

There are also reports Matthews committed more than his share of mental mistakes on the field. Continuing those won’t help in Shanahan’s complex offense, which could mean just a handful of gaffes could relegate Matthews back into some sort of support role only.

Projected Role with the 49ers in 2019

Right now, Matthews’ spot on the 53-man roster looks pretty safe. Yes, the Niners could part ways with the wide receiver between now and the regular season at a cost of just $300,000 in dead money.

But given Matthews’ performance in offseason camps so far, doing so doesn’t seem likely.

Matthews’ frame makes him an ideal red-zone option, which San Francisco needs. Additionally, he has the ability to operate both on the outside and as a big slot. That should give Shanahan additional mismatch abilities, depending on how opponents are using their nickel and dime formations this season.

It’s possible Matthews winds up securing a starting job this season, too. While the 49ers would ideally like to get their second-round NFL Draft pick, Deebo Samuel, into the mix as soon as possible, Samuel is dealing with minor injuries and might not be forced into the fray right out of the gate.

Likewise, San Francisco’s leading wide receiver from a year ago, Kendrick Bourne, could feasibly be pushed off the regular-season roster by Matthews’ presence.

One might figure the Niners keep just one of these two players heading into Week 1.

So much more will be determined by training camp, when the pads come on and defensive backs can jam and play more physical at the line of scrimmage. If Matthews continues to impress, he’ll be a lock to make the roster and should be in prime position to make some serious contributions early.

Next. Predicting 49ers depth chart at wide receiver in 2019. dark

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