Being a rookie in the NFL is hard enough. The pressure of being a top-10 pick only adds to that. Having the family name of Matthews probably also sets expectations high. Top it off with an ankle injury and inadequate time to heal and you've got Jake Matthews rookie season. While he came into camp with high expectations, it was clear that the rookie had a poor season. While some were quick to write him off, many fans felt playing on a healthy foot would make a difference. As it turns out, they were right.
Bouncing back from injury
In his rookie 2014 season, Matthews was graded by PFF to be one of the worst tackles in football. It didn't help that his ankle was stepped on during the first game and that he would only sit one game when he really should have sat out several. Matthews played through the pain, but it was clear he was struggling.
This year, however, Matthews came into camp mostly healed. He had off-season Lisfranc surgery and spent most of the off-season rehabbing from that surgery, but was ready by the time training camp came around. For the 2015 season, he would only allow 1 sack all year along with 6 hits and 31 hurries. He graded positively with PFF, ranking 18th overall. Matthews demonstrated that he was both a steady pass blocker as well as a good run blocker. His 2nd season has given Falcons fans reason to believe he will be our franchise left tackle for years to come.
Matthews is still under his rookie contract and is set to count a very reasonable 4.48M against the 2016 cap. The Falcons will probably look to extend him in the 2017 season, but there's little reason to believe his contract is anything but favorable to the team. Cutting him - which would be both insane and stupid - would net a 5.2M hit against the cap. All of that to say: Jake is here to stay.
Outlook for 2016
Here's the thing about the 2015 season for Jake: as good as it was, there's still much that can go better. He didn't have a full off-season to train. He was learning a new scheme and was working with brand new coaches. So, for as good as Jake was this year, there's hope he can take yet another step forward in 2016. Having a full off-season to train should help with his strength in pass blocking. Going into his second season in the ZBS will only benefit him on the field. The Falcons franchise left tackle should be able to get even better in 2016 - which provides hope that the team can do the same.
What are your thoughts on Jake?