We’re in the depths of the offseason here at The Falcoholic, and there has been little to nothing in the way of interesting news in ages. So, we’ll have to make some content of our own in the meantime. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you a new Player Profile series where we’ll take a look at each of the players on Atlanta’s roster. I’ll break down their measurables, past production, and try to project their 2020 season with the Falcons.
We’ll get things started with the projected starters. After taking stock of WR, we now turn our attention to the offensive line. The Falcons have had a lot of turnover up front over the past several years with the addition of four new linemen in 2019: first-round picks Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary, and veteran free agents Jamon Brown and James Carpenter. Meanwhile, All Pro center Alex Mack is nearing retirement, leaving only LT Jake Matthews as a long-term certainty along the OL.
Today we take a closer look at Jake Matthews, who has manned LT reliably for the Falcons since he was drafted in 2014 and has gradually developed into one of the NFL’s top pass-blocking offensive tackles.
LT Jake Matthews
Contract: $10.76M cap hit in 2020, under contract through 2023 ($14.16M APY)
Career Production: 95 games played, 95 games started | 3 fumble recoveries | 22 holding penalties, 9 false starts, 36 total penalties | 75.5 overall PFF grade
2019 Production: 16 games played, 16 games started | 2 holding penalties, 2 false starts, 7 total penalties | 79.7 overall PFF grade
Previous Teams: Drafted in the 1st round (6th overall) by the Atlanta Falcons (2014-present)
Without a doubt the best offensive line pick of Thomas Dimitroff’s career, Jake Matthews took control of the LT job immediately after being drafted 6th overall in 2014. In many ways, Matthews was an easy slam dunk pick at the top of the draft: he had extensive NFL pedigree, spectacular college tape, and tested out as a terrific athlete at the NFL Combine. It’s a good thing that Atlanta didn’t overthink it and simply took the “safe” prospect in Matthews, who has been an above-average LT at worst throughout his time in Atlanta.
Like most young offensive linemen thrust into an early starting role—particularly in a role as important as LT—Matthews struggled in his rookie season. A high-ankle sprain he suffered in the season-opener certainly didn’t help matters, but Matthews played through the injury and missed just one game. 2014 was his lowest graded PFF season (59.7) and the only season of his career in which he graded out lower than 72.5.
Matthews continued to develop and turned in what would be the best season of his career according to PFF in 2015, where he would post an 81.2 overall grade. Outside of a small dip in 2016—where Matthews graded out as an above-average 72.5—he has been at or around an 80.0 overall grade through the remainder of his time in Atlanta. He was finally named to his first Pro Bowl in 2018 and has been a rock on Atlanta’s otherwise volatile offensive line since he was drafted in 2014.
Matthews is a technically sound and athletic pass blocker who is among the most reliable in the league. His run blocking is solid, and can be quite good if the scheme takes advantage of his athleticism on outside zone concepts. When Matthews has struggled, it’s usually with bull rushes and power. He has continued to improve his lower body strength and anchor, but will still occasionally get beat in this area. At the end of the day, his strong pass blocking is far more important to the Falcons (particularly with Dirk Koetter at the helm) than his run blocking.
Projection: Jake Matthews is entering the prime years of his career as an offensive lineman, and we have no reason to believe he’ll be anything less than a top-10 NFL left tackle once again in 2020. His reliability, athleticism, and durability make him one of the most valuable players on Atlanta’s roster, and he should continue to lock down the left side of the offensive line for years to come.