This is certainly not a question many Atlanta Falcons fans thought they’d be asking about their recent 6th overall pick back in April, when Atlanta pulled the trigger on that stud offensive lineman who hails from a goldmine of an athletic bloodline which features a hall of fame offensive lineman father, and an absolute beast of a pass rusher who’s his cousin. He’s also the man who kept the one we call Johnny Football upright in those two explosive years at Texas A&M. But here we are: Jake Matthews has been one of Atlanta’s worst offensive lineman this year, and he’s left the Falcons faithful questioning the high investment Thomas Dimitroff made in him back in April.
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Now, I am in no way saying that Matthews is a bust, he’s only 10 games into his rookie season. But, it is troubling to see the man who was regarded as the most polished of his offensive lineman peers, and who was unanimously considered as the best pass blocker in the draft, struggle so mightily. Having to protect the quarterback’s blindside as the left end is one of the hardest jobs on the line, and it’s the position Matthews was thrust into after Sam Baker went down with a season ending knee injury in the preseason, but he has played it successfully in college and was excellent operating from the left side in the week 1 win against the Saints.
The main reason for the struggles which has been cited was a high ankle sprain Jake suffered before the week 2 matchup against the Bengals, which forced him to miss said encounter. This is an injury that lingers, as we all saw last year with Roddy White, but it doesn’t deteriorate an offensive lineman the way it does a wide receiver who has to plant and jump for much of the game. In fact, Matthews was back at it just a week later in the home game against the Buccaneers, after suffering the injury. And another important point that can’t be ignored is the fact that we’re already in week 12, a full 10 weeks after the injury was sustained; this is plenty of time for a hurt ankle to heal.
How rough has it been for the Atlanta Falcons 6th overall pick Jake Matthews this year? I’ll let the advanced analytics of Pro Football Focus tell the story. He allowed 5 quarterback pressures in the recent match against the Panthers, and had an overall grade of -1.5 in that game, and that was one of his best grades in a while. This season, Matthews has an overall grade of -34.2, which is the worst grade among all starting tackles in the NFL; and this player who everyone thought would be the best pass protector coming out of the draft, currently ranks 70th out of 73 eligible players in pass blocking efficiency. If that’s not enough, he also has the worst overall grade of any first rounder from the draft, by far. It has not been a good season.
As stated, it’s still way too early to give up on Matthews seeing how he’s not even done with his first season yet. We can only hope that something clicks for this top 10 pick, and that he can get on track: the expectations of him becoming a cornerstone and anchor of the offensive line still remain. Fortunately for the Falcons, they have the right man at the helm to aid Jake in this process in Mike Tice. Coach Tice has worked magic with the offensive line this season, despite four season ending injuries to starters and their understudies on the line. And, of course, it helps that Jake has a hall of fame offensive lineman father there to help him out along the way. The talent is definitely there, and so is the tutelage, it should only be a matter of time before something clicks for Jake Matthews and he becomes that stud everyone expected him to be coming out of the draft… or at least, it better be only a matter of time, for Thomas Dimitroff’s sake.
The Atlanta Falcons are still alive, and they are pushing strong and hard for that playoff spot. Go Birds!