The motivational moment for Dolphins receiver Rishard Matthews came in the second round of this year's NFL Draft.
All he needed was to see the Dolphins select receiver Jarvis Landry with the 63rd pick. That was more than enough to convince Matthews he needed an extraordinary offseason if he was going to compete for playing time.
"We picked a receiver in the second round," Matthews said. "When you do that, they want that person to play right away. … It's just brought the best out in all of us, making us want to strive to be great."
The possibility of being a depth chart casualty has Matthews off to the best preseason start of his three-year career. After progressing each season, he is looking to make his biggest leap after the Dolphins increased the competition by acquiring Landry.
"I wouldn't say it made me smile," Matthews said of the Landry pick. "I'm not a "hater" or anything like that. I'm happy for him. I think he should have gone higher. But it definitely has brought the competition out in all of us … Everybody was like, 'OK, now we've got to come to work.' "
Matthews has turned the selection into a positive. When Landry was drafted, Matthews immediately returned to the practice field. When individual workouts weren't enough, he teamed with a pair of former Dolphins.
He participated in early-morning training sessions in Weston with All-Pro Brandon Marshall of the Chicago Bears and the New England Patriots' Brian Tyms. He said he benefited most from working alongside Marshall, who played for the Dolphins from 2010-11.
"Just watching him, he didn't really give me any advice or anything," Matthews said. "It was just watching his work ethic. That guy works."
The hope is for Matthews to develop into the Dolphins' fourth, or even third receiver. He caught 41 passes for 448 yards and two touchdowns last year, but has gained more trust from the coaching staff. He had three receptions for 43 yards and caught a 9-yards touchdown pass from backup Matt Moore in Saturday's victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"Being a seventh-round pick, you definitely have to build trust," Matthews said. "It definitely means a lot."
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said the improvement has been noticeable, especially on the practice field.
"He made some good plays in the game the other night," Philbin said. "He's been productive here on the practice field. The one thing we talk with the guys all the time about is taking the practice to the game, taking the meeting room to practice, taking the practice field to the game. He's done a good job with that."
The biggest confidence boost perhaps came after his performance against Tampa Bay. His teammates and coaches made no big deal about it. They viewed it as a sign of things to come, with Matthews targeting a 50-catch season.
"It's kind of expected," Matthews said. "They want me to succeed. They want me to make plays when the ball is thrown my way. When I don't, that's when you definitely don't want to hear from them."
With two preseason games remaining, Matthews still has a few weeks before the season-opener against the New England Patriots on Sept. 7 at Sun Life Stadium. He said the most important thing is continuing to take advantage of the competition at his position.
That remains the biggest difference in his approach from last year.
"I guess there's more competition," Matthews said.
"Last year there was lots of competition but this year, as everybody has been talking about, we're pretty deep at receiver. It brings out the best in you. It makes you work even harder on your craft. I'll just do what I can do, play ball and let them make the decision upstairs."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun