When Jake Matthews entered the NFL Draft last spring, talent evaluators agreed on a few key aspects of his game. They said he was quick off the snap. Agile. Good at moving laterally. The Texas A&M Aggie displayed these skills throughout his time in college and, as a result, became a highly coveted left tackle — one worthy of a top pick.
Matthews' quickness and ability to move side-to-side will be helpful as the Falcons transition to a zone blocking scheme. This method, installed by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, has a strong track record over the past several decades, dating back to its extraordinary success in Denver.
And Matthews believes it can bring out the best in him.
"I feel like I'm going to do really well in it," he said. "So I'm excited to get more reps and for camp to come around … It's been a lot of fun; I like it a lot. I think I'm going to do really well in it. It's all about speed and get off the ball, and that's stuff I'm suited for."
Falcons head coach Dan Quinn agrees with Matthews' assessment — and not only because he's a natural fit for the outside zone.
"I think when you watch the evaluation, and you've probably heard me say it before, good players can play in a lot of systems, and he's one for sure," said Quinn. "I think it's that foot quickness that he has to allow us to run the wide zone either to the left or to the right, when he's on his left side he's wide zone trying to reach a guy."
Matthews' rookie year was a trying one, as he battled an injured foot through much of the regular season. Less than 100 percent health coupled with a lack of experience was an unfortunate mix, but in 2015, the slate will be wiped clean.
And with his return to the practice field on Tuesday, Matthews took a crucial step towards a fruitful sophomore campaign. Though he's being limited for now, his progress is highly encouraging; and by all accounts, he's put in the work needed to flourish in 2015.
"It was great for us to have him back on the field, so he's been in individuals and participating in some of the walk through," Quinn said. "He's not participating in the whole team practice yet, but you talk about a guy who's had a great offseason, in terms of the mindset and attitude to rehab and get stronger and get fit. He's absolutely captured that mindset. He's well on his way to having a great offseason leading right up into camp.