As Matt Ryan put together one of the best eight-game stretches of his career, he did so with the knowledge that his blind side was being protected well.
Now in the midst of his third NFL campaign, LT Jake Matthews has impressed his teammates and coaches with the way he has progressed in 2016. The 2014 first-round pick has allowed just two sacks and four QB hits this year, according to Pro Football Focus, and has yet to miss an offensive snap.
"I think Jake's come a long way since coming in as a rookie," Ryan said. "First and foremost he's been healthy this year, for the most part, which has really helped him. I know that he's dealt with things in the past, and that's tough."
As Ryan mentioned, health has been an issue for Matthews. First, the Texas A&M product injured his ankle as a rookie, and several months later, he injured a foot, too, which limited his participation in workouts the following summer. In Week 3 of his second preseason, shortly after his foot healed, he hurt his back and had to deal with that hindrance throughout 2015.
But Matthews spent months successfully rehabbing his back — during the regular season and after — and that work has paid off.
"You can really see it in his quickness, the way he cuts off the backside on the way we like to play zone," head coach Dan Quinn said. "He's more stout, giving (Ryan) time in the pocket. So he's off to a good start."
In addition to his strong pass blocking, Matthews has done a solid job creating lanes for Atlanta's running backs. According to NFL Game Stats and Information, the Falcons are gaining 6.48 yards per rush behind the left tackle — the fifth-highest mark in the league.
"I feel like he's been out there, he's been physical, he's done a great job both in the run game and in the pass game," Ryan said. "His athleticism is the No. 1 thing that jumps out to me. When you watch him in space, getting out in front of people and some of the things we ask them to do it in the run scheme in the outside zone, he's as good as anybody at being about to do that. So yeah, I'm proud of Jake. He's done a great job."