Did Matthews have too lofty expectations?

Jake Matthews had a lot of adversity in his rookie season, but can he improve this year?

Did we perhaps have too high expectations on Jake Matthews last season? It’s a reasonable question looking back on what fans and the media did believe the rookie could do in his first season.

Matthews came in with much fanfare, as the sixth overall pick in the draft. He was the son of a Hall of Fame offensive lineman, as his dad Bruce Matthews had a great career in Houston and Tennessee. Maybe we thought as soon as Jake stepped on the field he would be as good as his dad was, which was a mistake even to begin with.

But then circumstances stepped in and made it almost impossible for Matthews to live up to those lofty expectations. First, Sam Baker was hurt in the preseason, meaning Matthews had to move from right tackle to the more important position of left tackle. Not many rookies are ready to step right in from day one and play left tackle, and at times Matthews looked overwhelmed.

Matthews was picked on by opposing defenses, and he allowed seven sacks and 51 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s not very good for any offensive lineman, and for a rookie that had a lot of people hoping he would fix the mediocre offensive line it was disappointing.

There was the high ankle sprain that Matthews suffered in week two. He really should be missed more time than he did, which was only one week. But that injury did not help matters and it impacted Matthews’ rookie season.

Then in January Matthews had surgery on a torn Lisfranc ligament in his foot. Now he has to come back from that injury, which won’t be easy.

The Falcons have brought in some veterans this offseason to help out on the line of scrimmage. Tyler Polumbus will help out at tackle, while Chris Chester will get a look at guard. The Falcons also believe Ryan Schraeder is ready for a more significant role, and he could push Baker at the other tackle spot. Plus, several players who missed significant time last season – Baker, Joe Hawley, Peter Konz and Lamar Holmes – are coming back.

But make no mistake about it: the Falcons need the supposed franchise tackle to take the next step this season. Matthews will have to do it in a new scheme, as the new coaching staff is implementing the zone blocking scheme. Yet the coaches will lean on a player that has great potential to continue the process of making the offensive line of scrimmage better in 2015.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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