For the second consecutive year, injuries and ineffectiveness along the offensive line have had a major impact on what should be a high-flying Falcons offense. That's a huge bummer, but there's reason to believe things will improve a bit in the second half of the season, starting with Jake Matthews.
Mike Tice tells Vaughn McClure that due in part to that damnable ankle tweak, Matthews has been playing without the kind of confidence you would anticipate. So it appears that the great Falcons debate of 2014 about whether Matthews' woes were due to his ankle or his confidence and aptitude both score victories today:
"I think the thing that really has happened with Jake is right tackle, right tackle, right tackle, right tackle, right tackle, left tackle, boom, hurt,'' Tice said. "He has really not played with any confidence in his ankle. And I think as he's getting healthy -- and I think, right now, he's as healthy as has been with that week off -- I think his confidence level has really picked up.
"I think he had some concern about getting beat because of that ankle. Even this week in practice, you can start to see that go away. So I expect Jake to be on the rise the rest of the way out.''
The Falcons need Matthews to be that guy to have a prayer of getting the offense going in the weeks ahead, and they certainly need him to be that guy going forward. This is a team in desperate need of a franchise tackle, so the sooner Matthews gets to that level, the better. He's got the physical toolkit, smarts and drive to do so, thankfully, but he's been a bit of train wreck for a long stretch in 2014, one that we hope ends with better health and some time watching tape over the bye.
His first test against the Buccaneers isn't an overly difficult one, but keep a close eye on Matthews to see how he fares Sunday. If Matthews can up his game, if James Stone and Ryan Schraeder can be decent and if Justin Blalock's back is feeling better after the bye week rest, this line has a chance to be much better than the unmitigated disaster is has been at times over the last several weeks. That's welcome news for fans and Matt Ryan alike.