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Matthews Ready for New Role at Left Tackle

Posted Aug 18, 2014

The Atlanta Falcons took a step in a new direction Monday, naming rookie Jake Matthews their starting left tackle, a seamless transition, according to his teammates.

Good things come to those who wait, and work, and sweat and don't complain, ever.

Just ask Falcons top-pick Jake Matthews, who head coach Mike Smith named the team's left tackle on Monday, replacing the injured Sam Baker. Sure, it may seem like a bit of an exaggeration about Matthews' demeanor, work ethic and humility, but to every one of the reporters covering the team, they'll tell you the same thing. And, just when the rookie was given an opportunity to share which position he most preferred to play, everyone assumed left tackle.

"Wherever they want me to play, that's what I prefer," Matthews said.

To lend some perspective on what Matthews is being asked to do, moving from right tackle to left tackle, just imagine having to write with your opposite hand for the next four months, keeping in mind that the rookie also has to focus his efforts against Pro Bowl defensive ends as part of the process, protecting QB Matt Ryan's blind side.

"The footwork and hands, everything just gets flipped," Matthews said. "I’ve been doing the ride-side thing for awhile and you kind of get accustomed to that and now you have to flip it all around, but it’s good. I’m excited to be established and know where I’m going to be playing and now I just have to get comfortable with it."

The comfort will continue to come throughout the week as Matthews gets more reps, right next to Falcons left guard Justin Blalock, who joked that Monday was like a first date between the eight-year veteran and the rookie; however, Blalock is confident in Matthews' ability to transition.

"I’m not too worried about it," Blalock said. "He’s an incredibly-sharp guy, who really grasps the concepts behind what we’re doing. We’ll be fine. We have two weeks out here, until a real, live game, so we have lots of time to work on our communication; I don’t think it will be an issue at all."

As for right tackle, three players were highlighted by Smith as competing for the spot, T Lamar Holmes, T Ryan Schraeder and OL Gabe Carimi, as soon as he returns to full health. The National Football League is a next-man-up business and the Falcons know that better than any of the league's 31 other teams, stemming from all the injuries in 2013. Fast forward to Week 3 of the preseason, when it's just another opportunity for players to show who's ready for the call and who's not.

As for Holmes, he's got his hard hat, lunch bucket and toolbox ready to go for what he hopes is the starting role to the right of guard Jon Asamoah.

"Last year, I was a young player and had just a few tools in my toolbox, but ever since (offensive line coach Mike) Tice got here, he’s been showing me different ins and outs of the game, different ways to play the game, different ways to read different players," Holmes said. "He’s helping me add more tools to my toolbox, so that I can be a better player."

It's been said that the best ability is availability, words that have again hit home for the Atlanta Falcons.

"Every guy prepares like he’s going to play, so when something happens, and you know, during the course of the season, something is likely going to happen, all the guys have to be ready," Asamoah said. "We each prepare all the time to be ready."

There's no time like the present for the Falcons offensive line to show that it's ready for not just Saturday's dress rehearsal against the Tennessee Titans, but for an entire 2014 season and beyond.


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