Atlanta Falcons 2020 Season Preview: Jake Matthews
William B. Carver
There were high expectations for the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive line in 2019.
Those expectations fell flat.
The Falcons drafted two offensive lineman in the first round of the 2019 draft to add to their veteran offensive line unit.
Only 3 out of 5 lineman played in all 16 games.
One of the rookie lineman, Chris Lindstrom, missed majority of the season due to a foot injury suffered in week one.
One of the three lineman, to start all 16 games was left tackle Jake Matthews.
Matthews, a household name for the Falcons offensive line. He comes from a family of professional football players. His father is Hall of Fame offensive lineman, Bruce Matthews.
Matthews is coming into his 7th year as a professional , all with the Falcons.
Like Matthews previous years he will be the linchpin of the Falcons offensive line. He has been a constant mainstay on the line.
Consistency is great, however production would be better.
The Falcons of 2019 were in trouble from the start. Most aspects of last year's team under-performed.
The offensive line was one of those.
The Falcons finished 30 out of 32 NFL teams in average rushing yards per game last season with 85.1 yards.
Falcons haven’t averaged 100 yards rushing per game since the 2017 season.
This past season was Matthews second year under Dirk Koetter’s offensive scheme. Koetter was also the offensive coordinator during Matthews rookie season in in 2014.
Even with a dismal year, Matthews still performed well at protecting Ryan.
Pro Football Focus ranked Matthews 96 out of 101 players in 2019. According to PFF, after a rough start to the season, Matthews became the third highest graded tackle in the league.
Expectations will be high for the 2020 Falcons and especially for the offensive line.
The Falcons added All-Pro running back Todd Gurley in the offseason. Of course Gurley will be tasked with improving the run game, however that is not a solo job. Gurley will need the help of a productive offensive line to clear lanes and help block downfield.
Like all quarterbacks, Ryan needs to be able to stay upright long enough to get good passes off to his receivers. The Falcons failed on both of this instances of pass protection and run blocking last year.
Alex Mack is a Pro Bowl center for the Falcons but Matthews has been on the offensive line longer than any other current Falcon. This is Matthews’ offensive line.
Matthews will continue to protect Ryan's blindside. As a leader on the offensive line, he should be tasked with ensuring the second year lineman are in sync with the rest.
The Falcons did finish the 2019 season strong finishing 6-2 in the second half of the season. That was more on the defensive turnaround and a productive passing game. The rushing game still lacked impact throughout the season.
Expect Matthews to have an impact on decreasing the amount of times Ryan is on his back, all while propelling Gurley to a productive season at running back.
Check out the full list of Atlanta Falcons player previews here.