The Falcons' offensive line figured to be fine once Justin Blalock returned to the lineup. Not good, mind you, given that Peter Konz was at center and Gabe Carimi isn't a world-beater at right tackle. Still, the thinking went, Jake Matthews, Justin Blalock and Jon Asamoah can at least stabilize things for this football team.
Unfortunately, the biggest problem with this line hasn't been Carimi or even Konz, who is an easy target because of his sadly ongoing mediocre play. The biggest problem has been Jake Matthews, and it appears we can trace much of that to ongoing struggles with his ankle injury.
You'll recall that Matthews was hurt during the first week of the season against New Orleans, and missed a couple of weeks of action as a result. Per Vaughn McClure, Matthews "tweaked" that injury against the Giants, which is a cute way of saying it's bothering him again. While it's a small relief to know that Matthews was beaten badly the last two weeks more due to injury than ability, it's a concern because ankle injuries linger and can flare-up easily, and I don't know that he'll be healthy again real soon.
Matthews' strong play in the first game of the season and before the injury give me hope that he'll be an effective tackle, particularly for a rookie, when he's fully healthy. Until then, though, he's a glaring liability on an offensive line that can hardly afford to have another one. The Falcons, of course, don't have any great solutions to the problem.
One option would be to continue to play Matthews, but if he's not healthy, he'll likely continue to struggle. The Falcons could also kick Gabe Carimi over to left tackle or choose to start either Ryan Schraeder or Cameron Bradfield there, but none of those options are likely to be massive upgrades, even over an injured Matthews. Carimi might be the best, with Schraeder at right.
The Falcons do have to make a decision. Giving Matthews some rest might be the best way to get him back to full strength quickly, but whether he's in there hurt or ceding his role to someone else, Matt Ryan's likely to be under pressure against a rough Ravens front seven. The Falcons should at least explore the idea of sitting him down so he can be more useful in the weeks ahead.
What say you?