FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Jake Matthews is coming off a Pro Bowl season and according to his head coach and quarterback, he looks even better heading into his sixth NFL season.
"He's bigger than he's been, he's stronger than he's been and he's applying that in pass protection," Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said. "In the run game, he's always had very good quickness. In the pass game, now you see him able to do all sorts of good things. This is the best that he's played since my time. I've been encouraged about what I've seen in camp so far."
Matthews, Atlanta's first-round pick in 2014, was drafted to protect Matt Ryan's blindside for years to come.
When asked what changed for Matthews in 2018 to elevate his game to Pro-Bowl caliber play, Matthews said it begins with his comfort level.
"Everything is just feeling more natural," Matthews said. "Getting more comfortable and getting stronger."
Matthews went from being one of the youngest players on Atlanta's offensive line in terms of age and experience to now one of the oldest. The Falcons' used two first-round picks on offensive linemen this year in guard Chris Lindstrom and tackle Kaleb McGary.
Matthews and Pro Bowl center Alex Mack's play will be instrumental in Atlanta's offensive line having a bounce back season after allowing 42 sacks on Matt Ryan in 2018. The Falcons also struggled to run the ball, finishing the season as the 27th ranked rushing attack.
Ryan offered high praise for Matthews as well and pointed to his consistent approach as a reason for his improvement.
"I think Jake looks great," Ryan said. "He's a guy that's gotten a little bit better every year that he's been here. That's impressive because he was super talented when he got here and played well for us right away, but he's just continued to work at it. He's relentless when it comes to his training, preparation, film study, practice habits on the field. There's probably nobody in the building who is as consistent as he is when it comes to taking care of his business. He sets the standard for it. I've been impressed with how he's looked. But I agree with him [Quinn], I think Jake [Matthews] looks as good as he's ever looked."