Early on during the draft process, the consensus about the Falcons and the sixth overall pick seemed to focus on Matthews.
The Texas A&M offensive tackle was a logical choice because of his NFL-ready skills.
``A guy like that has the potential to go No. 1 in this draft, if he turns the right heads,’’ Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said back in January.
Texas A&M offensive line coach B.J. Anderson knew he inherited a great one when he joined the Aggies as an assistant in 2012.
Technically sound: Anderson had no hesitation when asked what separates Matthews from others.
``He has a really good set, one of the best sets I’ve ever coached,’’ Anderson said. ``He’s just a technician. He’s a fundamentalist. He’s plays with power in the run game and protection-wise. His football IQ is really, really high. He has a lot of awareness when he’s on the football field of what’s going on around him and how that affects the backs trying to block.
``He’s a tape junkie. He watches plenty of tape, both college and pros. He’s just a student of the game. This game is very important to him and he treats it as such.’’
When Matthews studies film, Anderson said it’s not just about studying any one player.
``I don’t think he has anybody specific that he’s looking at,’’ Anderson said. ``He tries to watch NFL tape, and we don’t always use the same techniques as NFL teams do. Our offense is a little different. But he’s trying to pick up small things such as hand placement, what the feet do. He watches college tape, too. He just submerses himself into this video trying to pick up a tip here or a tip there. In the offseason, you can tell when he comes back what he’s worked on and tried to perfect. It’s evident in how he shows up and how he plays.’’
Post moves: That’s not a basketball reference to former Aggie and current Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. It’s part of Anderson’s description when breaking down how Matthews’ game has evolved over the past two seasons.
``To start off, the biggest hurdle we had to jump with Jake was he was the right tackle, so his post foot was his left foot and kick foot was his right foot,’’ Anderson explained. ``And his post hand was his left hand. When you switch guys over to the left side, all that changes. All the answers that you’ve ever had all come off of your post foot and your post hand. And so, that went from his left hand to his right hand. He not only had to go over to the left side and learn how to set with a different stagger, but he had to relearn all the answers again with a different hand and a different foot. So now, all of his answers came from his right foot and his right hand because that became his post foot and post hand. That was the big challenge.
``He put a ton of work into it. He came to me several times, and a lot of my answers were, ``You’ve got to do it 10,000 times, 15,000 times before it becomes where you don’t even think about it. Then that’s your answer.’’
Anderson admired how he didn’t have to nudge Matthews.
``He did a ton of pass-set work on his own,’’ the coach said. ``When he showed up in fall camp, he was ready to roll. I saw a huge difference in his comfort level to not only the speed of the set, but to the answers to a bull rush, to a counter move, when he had to penetrate on a twist. His answers were back to where they needed to be.’’
Check the film: Anderson hesitated before pointing to one particular game film that captured Matthews’ overall ability.
``I wouldn’t say do that because I think how you judge great offensive linemen is the consistency of their play,’’ Anderson said. ``If you have a great game against Alabama and you come back and have an awful game against Auburn, you’re not a superior tackle. We only play 13 games. You’ve got to have 13 games people can stick in and say, `This guy is a top-five pick.’ And I’m comfortable that you can take any tape of the two years I’ve been the offensive line coach here and see Jake Matthews plays at a consistent level to garner being a top-five pick.’’
Anderson did, however, reflect on a 2012 matchup with LSU during which Matthews and Joeckel shut down pass-rushers Barkevious Mingo (sixth overall pick of Cleveland), Sam Montgomery (third-round pick of Cincinnati) and Lavar Edwards (fifth-round pick of Tennessee).
Strong bloodlines: It might seem overstated at times, but Matthews does come from a football family. His father, Bruce, is an NFL Hall of Fame guard. His uncle, Clay Matthews Jr., was a fourth-time Pro Bowl linebacker. And his cousin, Clay Matthews III, is a standout pass-rusher for the Green Bay Packers.
``I think it has to be factor if you look at the consistency of it,’’ Anderson said. ``I hate to keep overusing that word, but Bruce played 19 years. The grandfather (Clay Matthews) played forever. And you look at Clay Matthews, his cousin with Green Bay. Kevin Matthews, the brother, is still playing. And his younger brother (Mike) is my starting center here and started as a redshirt freshman. You look at Jake and the last four years here at Texas A&M, you have to say that bloodlines are a part of it.’’
Perfecting the craft: Anderson would give Matthews simple advice if the two sat down today and Matthews asked what he needed to do to perfect his game for the next level.
``I would tell him to just keep being violent and keep finishing plays,’’ Anderson said. ``It doesn’t matter if you’re protecting a Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers-type quarterback or you’re blocking for some of the best running backs in that league in the run game. As long as you’re violent and physical at the point of attack and you finish blocks and you play with a tough kind of mentality, then he'll have the opportunity to be one of the great offensive linemen to ever play in the National Football League.
``And that’s not something that I’m giving you that he doesn’t have. That’s the trait that I see has so much success both in college and the NFL: tough guys that finish and play with some nastiness to them. He just needs to go be Jake Matthews and he’ll be in good shape.''
Wednesday: Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack