The biggest question marks surrounding the Atlanta Falcons entering this past Saturday’s preseason game against the Tennessee Titans centered on the team’s offensive tackle position.
But thankfully, both starting tackles: Jake Matthews and Lamar Holmes performed well against the Titans. Both players of course had their share of lapses, which comes with the territory of being a developing NFL player, but the Falcons should emerge with a good deal of confidence from that game based off their collective performance.
While Matthews missed a couple of blocking assignments against the Titans, he more than held his own against quality competition he faced in defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and edge-rusher Kamerion Wimbley. Casey is one of the best defensive tackles in the league, and while he had a solid overall performance against the Falcons, there were several times when Matthews was able to thwart and control him. Wimbley’s production has steadily declined since a nine-sack season in 2010, but outside one or two snaps was unable to get the better of Matthews.
Those are both positive signs. Compared to the play of the Falcons tackles from a year ago, there would have been very few instances where they would have managed to control the likes of Casey and would have looked overmatched almost every snap. The fact that Wimbley’s play has declined over the past three seasons is indicative of Matthews’ strong performance as well. It would have been more concerning had Wimbley gotten the better of him several times.
Matthews showed against the Titans that he indeed has a bright future ahead of him. While there will still be breakdowns and penalties from time to time, the Falcons should be confident in their ability to move forward with Matthews protecting Matt Ryan’s blindside. There certainly could be a number of games on the horizon where Matthews struggles, but the Falcons shouldn’t feel like the offense is going to be held back from having a rookie like him at left tackle.
That is a very positive development for not only the Falcons this season, but also moving forward. The Falcons just simply haven’t gotten a lot of good news when their offensive line has been involved over the past few years.