May 9, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons first round draft pick tackle Jake Matthews (with jersey) shown with his family during a press conference at Falcons Training Facility. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
#1 The Offensive Tackles
With Sam Baker placed on injured reserve, it will now be up to the impressive rookie Jake Matthews to hold down the blindside. It was always going to be in his future but it wasn’t expected to come this early. Nevertheless, the Falcons didn’t hesitate on making the move. Even on Hard Knocks a brief clip involving Mike Tice and Matt Ryan was shown, shortly after Baker limped off the field. Tice there and then confirmed to Ryan that Matthews will move to the left side.
Recent play of rookie left tackles hasn’t been inspiring so we should curb our enthusiasm. Maybe the best example is Matt Kalil but aside from him, I don’t think there has been a truly good one since Jake Long and Ryan Clady in 2008. If Matthews is even average, we should consider that a success. Anything above average would be excellent. What we don’t want is Matthews to be a liability.
I am actually more worried about right tackle. Lamar Holmes struggled badly last year, albeit that was mostly at left tackle. Using ProFootballFocus’s statistics, only four out of seventy-six offensive tackles gave up pressure at a worse rate than Holmes. The other main candidates – Gabe Carimi and Ryan Schraeder – have both also struggled in the NFL. I’m not too optimistic about the position and if it doesn’t look good tonight, Thomas Dimitroff should be on the phone. I suggested New England’s Marcus Cannon in a recent article but anyone that can provide stability would be fine.