For those who wanted the Falcons to have their next Mike Kenn, their next Bill Fralic or maybe their next Bob Whitfield, they are likely going to be very happy.
The early returns on rookie offensive lineman Jake Matthews have been very positive. To watch him in practice is to not see a player that is in his 10th NFL practice or so, but instead a player that definitely has the NFL running through his bloodlines.
Monday I told Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan that Matthews hasn’t looked like a typical rookie lineman to the media and asked what Matthews has looked like to him.
“Yeah he certainly doesn’t look like it to me,” Ryan said. “He is as savvy as any rookie I’ve been around – any position. He plays very physical and he’s extremely athletic. I’ve been incredibly impressed with him up to this point. I’m excited we were able to draft him.”
You better believe Ryan is excited. He was pushed around and shoved around last season due to the constant changes and mediocre talent on the offensive line to the point he was sacked 44 times. So Ryan is desperate to have an improved line keep him vertical in 2014.
Matthews and newly signed free agent Jon Asamoah have clearly improved the right side of the line of scrimmage. The Falcons need left tackle Sam Baker to stay healthy, as he played in only four games last season due to injuries. There is little worry about left guard Justin Blalock, who started all 16 games in 2013 and is the steadiest veteran on the offensive line.
And then there’s the center position. Peter Konz was the starter at center for the first nine games last year before being replaced by Joe Hawley, who was resigned and is penciled in as the starter for this season. However, Hawley doesn’t seem to have the position locked down, at least not yet.
Hawley has been involved in several fights, which is not necessarily a bad thing since the Falcons have wanted to get more physical this season. But he got into it with rookie Ra’Shede Hageman on Sunday and then got kicked out of the scrimmage against the Titans Monday with another altercation.
But all eyes during camp have been on Matthews, who does not look like a typical rookie lineman that wanders around wondering what to do next. Matthews has been around the game all his life, as his dad Bruce Matthews is a Pro Football Hall of Famer.
Monday Matthews was challenged by Tennessee defensive ends Derrick Morgan and Ropati Pitoitua, who happens to be six-foot-eight and handled them every time. You keep waiting for Matthews to look normal, to look like a rookie. But instead, Matthews looks like a potential dominant lineman that will help better protect Ryan this season.
Sure, it’s dangerous to add to the hype machine. But it’s also silly to not be honest about the potential of this young man, who looks to be the perfect draft pick for the Falcons.
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The Falcons got a chance to hit someone wearing a different uniform Monday. How did they do…