Newly-signed wide receiver Jordan Matthews could be the red-zone threat that the 49ers have desperately needed.

In 2018, the 49ers were worst in the NFL in red zone efficiency in terms of scoring touchdowns. They only managed to hit pay dirt from inside the 20-yard line 41.18 percent of the time. For perspective, the Steelers topped the list, scoring a touchdown 73.47 percent of their trips in the red zone. 

The 49ers weren’t much better in 2017. They scored a touchdown 47.06 percent of the times they visited the red zone which ranked them 27th in the league. 

Matthews might just be the answer to the 49ers' problem. Of his 22 career touchdowns, 16 have been from the red zone. What is noticeable when looking all of his scoring plays is how easy he makes it look.

One argument for Matthews’ red zone production could be scheme, but he’s been productive in both Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson’s offenses. Matthews is also an equal opportunity receiver, as he has caught touchdown passes from Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Tyrod Taylor, Sam Bradford, and Mark Sanchez. 

Obviously credit needs to be given the above listed quarterbacks for making the throws, but Matthews has some traits that make him effective in a shortened field. 

He gets open

When Matthews runs a route, he knows how to position himself so he stays in front of the defender. While sometimes it involves a little boxing out and contact, most of the time it’s as simple as out-maneuvering his body so he is an open target. 

 

Example: Week 13, 2018
Philadelphia vs. Washington

Matthews runs a simple dig route along the goal line and keeps himself between the defender and the quarterback. Wentz throws a quick four-yard pass on what looks like his first read for an easy touchdown.  

He’s fast enough to beat a defender

Matthews has the ability to use his body, but also has enough speed to flat out get open. Matthews ran a 4.46 40-yard dash and being 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, it’s likely that opponents forget about his speed. 

Example: Week 4, 2017
Buffalo vs. Atlanta 

Midway through the second quarter Matthews runs a nine-yard slant from the right to the left. He gets so far in front of the defender that Taylor has an easy throw for the touchdown. 

He can grab a jump ball

Matthews is a big bodied receiver, more so than anyone else in the receivers room. His size alone will gives him an advantage in jump ball situations. 

Example: Week 3, 2014
Philadelphia vs. Washington

Just before the half ended, Matthews ran a go route to the back of the end zone. He was double covered but got up above the defenders enough to grab Foles' 11-yard pass for the touchdown.

[RELATED: Matthews a lifelong 49ers fan]

He is difficult for defensive backs to read and follow 

Example Week 2, 2015 
Philadelphia vs. Washington

Matthews runs an out route on the goal line with less than three minutes left in the game. Before he changes direction in front of the defender, he makes slight contact enough to delay their motion, allowing him to get in front for the completion and touchdown. 

Matthews ability to change direction quickly might be his most impressive and valuable quality. Many of his touchdowns were when he nearly ran straight into a defender before turning in his route. It doesn’t give the defensive back time to react before the ball is thrown his way.

Matthews has quite a few tricks in his repertoire and coach Kyle Shanahan will be taking advantage of each of them on the field.