The Best of the Best: Jake Matthews

We’re now five days away from the beginning of the 2013 college football season, which means it’s time for part six of my Best of the Best series.  This 10 article series will take a  look at my top 10 draft eligible players in college football.  For my rankings, I factored my Draft stock for each player, as well as their impact in the college game.  While I fully expect all of these players to be top 15 draft selections next year, there could always be fluctuation with a premium placed on positions like Quarterback and Offensive Tackle.  With that said, it’s time to look at my number five prospect, Texas A&M Offensive Tackle Jake Matthews.

Image

Tale of the Tape

6’5″

305 lbs’

Career Numbers

37 starts in a possible 40 games

Matthews is a player who at the end of the 2012 season, I didn’t expect to be playing college ball this year.  He’s a very gifted Tackle, combining a good mix of athleticism, strength and technique into a pretty complete package.  He has yet to play at the premier Left Tackle position for the Aggies, however he has the ideal skill set to do so.  He’ll be on the left side of the line this year, replacing this years second overall Draft pick Luke Joeckel.  Matthews doesn’t just have good skill though, he comes from a family that has great NFL pedigree.  His father Bruce Matthews is part of the 2007 NFL Hall of Fame class, his older brother Kevin is a Center for the Redskins, and his younger brother Mike plays Center for A&M.  You may have heard of his cousins too, Casey and Clay play Linebacker for Philadelphia and Green Bay respectively.  So lets take a look at what potentially makes Jake the next great in the Matthews family.

Athleticism

  • Matthews shows great athleticism at the Tackle position.  He’s able to pull and get into the second level quickly to block, as well as reacting quickly to cut block rushers at the line.  He also has excellent foot speed in pass protection making is hard for rushers to get the edge on him.                Image
  • On this first play against Oklahoma we will see Matthews pull across the line, and get down field as the lead blocker for Quarterback Johnny Manziel.   Image
  • Matthews is able to transition fluidly as he pulls across the line to get in position as the lead blocker.                           Image
  • As Matthews gets into the second level you can see him locate and square up the unblocked defender.                      Image
  • Matthews gets to the defender allowing Manziel to cut to the sideline and pick up the first down.  Without his effort on the play this is probably a modest gain at best, instead of a play that moves the chains.             Image
  • Here again we’ll see Matthews show athleticism as he gets down field to block on a running play.                                                  Image
  • As the ball is snapped Matthews quickly gets into the second level to engage the Outside Linebacker.                                                      Image
  • After engaging the Linebacker on the seven yard line he seals the block, and shows good strength to drive the defender backwards.            Image
  • By the time the Running Back has been ruled out of bounds at the five yard line, Matthews has driven his defender seven yards from the engage point into the end zone.                                                                    Image
  • On this last play, I wanted to point out Matthews foot speed to shuffle and stay with rushers.  In this case, one of the best pass rushers in the SEC last year, Barkevious Mingo.                                                             Image
  • As the ball is snapped, Matthews quickly kicks out of his stance sliding back and out in order to meet the rusher in his lane.                   Image
  • Matthews turns to mirror Mingo, and engages him in his block.          Image
  • Even though Matthews isn’t able to fully secure Mingo his foot speed allows him to “dance” with him in order to stay in front of him.              Image
  • The result is providing Manziel with a clean lane to scramble.

Pass Blocking

  • Matthew’s foot athleticism allows him to keep up with pass rushers in blocking situations, but that doesn’t mean his pass blocking is successful just because he’s athletic.  Matthews uses very good technique, from his stance to his hand placement and usage.  He also has great awareness in regards to stunts and blitzes.                                                                                  Image
  • Here we’ll see Matthews demonstrate phenomenal pass blocking late in the game against Alabama.                                    Image
  • Matthews fires out of his stance and engages the rusher early.  He gets his hands up quickly to seal the block, and fight with the defender for leverage.  He uses good pad level, keeping his back arched and feet anchored so that he can prevent the defender from driving him back into the Quarterback.     Image
  • Despite the rusher getting his hands into Matthews face mask he maintains his leverage and doesn’t give an inch to the defender.  The defender is unable to move him at the line.                                                        Image
  • Matthews is able to secure his block again, and drives the defender down field and away from the Quarterback.  This allows the Quarterback to roll to the right and find a Receiver down field for a long gain.                 Image
  • On this play earlier in the game we’ll again see excellent all around pass blocking technique.                                                   Image
  • As the ball is snapped, Matthews again gets into an ideal stance.  His back is arched, and he’s low to the ground, almost like he’s sitting in a chair.     Image
  • He gets his hands on the blocker, and once again utilizes good hand technique.  He’s keeping the blocker off his chest as much as possible, and his hands are inside the shoulders to not get called for holding.          Image
  • He again shows great foot speed to shuffle and mirror the rusher, and despite not being able to fully hold his block does a great job “hand fighting” with his man.                                                                                                                              Image
  • On this last play I want to point out how Matthews is able to recognize and pick up stunts on the Defensive Line.  Here we will see the rusher marked with the yellow box delay and then take his rush to the outside of the line where Matthews is occupying.                                             Image
  • As the ball is snapped Matthews does a good job helping the Guard with his blocking responsibility, but soon will be asked to recognize the stunting lineman.                                                                                                     Image
  • Recognizing the stunt, Matthews slides over from where he was giving help to the Guard, and sets himself to embrace the stunting rusher.  He takes on the rusher with ease, and blocks him out while Manziel throws a touchdown pass.

Size and Frame

  • The last thing I want to touch on, are Matthews’ build as an Offensive Tackle.  Despite playing RT his entire career at Texas A&M, Matthews is the prototypical Left Tackle.  He’s got the ideal size at 6’5 and somewhere right around 300 pounds, and his athleticism allows him to keep up with speed rushers on the edge.  This is actually one of the reasons I expect him to be even more impressive in 2013 then he was in 2012.  In my opinion, his skill set will make him a better Left Tackle now, and going forward, then his teammate Luke Joeckel was.

Needs Work

While every single player in my Best of the Best series has traits to their game that in my opinion make them stand out, they all have things they need to improve too.  So let’s look at a couple of areas where I would like to see Joeckel improve in 2013.

Physicality

  • One area I would like Matthews to make some strides in, is his physicality on the line of scrimmage.  Whether in pass blocking, or opening up lanes for the running game, Matthews can be overpowered at times by more physical lineman.                                                           Image
  • Here we’ll see Matthews struggle blocking out Mingo.  Mingo gets a good first step off the line, and is able to create leverage.  He also allows Mingo to get into his frame which creates the opportunity for Mingo to move him up field.       Image
  • Despite having help from the Tight End, Matthews is struggling to stop Mingo’s surge.  He’s lost the leverage battle,                   Image
  • Matthews is forced to grab Mingo, and Manziel is dropped behind the line of scrimmage because of poor blocking.

Adjusting to Left Tackle

  • I said before that I thought Jake Matthews would make a better Left Tackle than Right Tackle, and I stand by that.  However there will still be an adjustment period.  Matthews will need to make that adjustment quickly to make sure Texas A&M has the season they expect to.  I will be very interested to see how well he manages protecting Manziel’s blind side early, and with a game against Alabama early in the season he will have to make that adjustment rapidly.

Final Thoughts

Matthews is an incredible Left Tackle prospect, who just hasn’t played at that position yet.  He’s got great athleticism, demonstrating ability to pull and get into the second level as a lead blocker, as well as the quick foot speed needed to mirror receivers.  His pass blocking technique is very sound, utilizing a good stance, proper hand placement, that same mirroring technique, and hand fighting even when he can’t maintain the block.  At times he looks like he’s dancing with lineman, and they can do nothing to get around him.  Also, I love his NFL blood lines, as it’s a sign he will be able to easily adjust to the pro game.

He does show good ability as a run blocker, however I would like to see him be a little more physical at the point of attack at times.  More physical defensive lineman are able to push him back wards at times, creating opportunities for negative plays.  His length also does raise some concerns as he doesn’t appear to have the longest arms, but he uses technique and good hand fighting to keep defenders away from him most of the time.  I also will be closely watching his adjustment to playing at the Left Tackle position as it holds the key to his Draft stock.  If he excels at the position he’s almost certainly a top 10 selection on Draft day.

Thank you for reading, and be sure to check back tomorrow for the next player in my Best of the Best series.  Also, please feel free to send me any comments/critique to danguy013@gmail.com or feel free to comment/follow me on twitter @danny_g13

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