- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
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One NFL personnel man said he was concerned with Jake Matthews' strength prior to the draft. At least one team that drafted in the top 10 this year ranked Zack Martin -- the 16th overall pick of the Dallas Cowboys -- ahead of the Atlanta Falcons' rookie right tackle because of concerns over Matthews' ability to finish.
Such nitpicking of his son's game seems comical to Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, particularly the strength part of it.
"Floyd Reese, he was our GM when I was with the Tennessee Titans," Bruce Matthews explained, "and we drafted a guy -- it might have been my last year -- and Floyd goes, 'This kid bench-presses like 700 pounds.' And I go, 'Damn, it's a shame you can't play with a bench on your back.'
"The game is so much more than that. Obviously, Jake wants to get stronger. But look at what's on the tape. I've seen dudes that have run 4.6, weigh 315 pounds, stand 6-foot-6, bench-press 225 pounds 45 times, and they're horrible players. It's a result league. That's the bottom line."
The Falcons firmly believe the end result of drafting the younger Matthews sixth overall this year will be stability at the tackle position for years to come. He showed signs of his NFL readiness during minicamp with his sound technique and eagerness to learn. His maturation will continue a week from now when the Falcons begin minicamp.
Bruce Matthews feels his son has an edge in terms of being fundamentally sound.
"I'd say 95 percent of sacks in the NFL are based off of offensive line error," Bruce Matthews said. "Whether I'm flipping my hips or I'm late off the ball or I'm lunging, it's very unusual for an offensive lineman to be in good position and just get your ass kicked. But it does happen. And you go, 'All right. That's one for him.' But most of the time you lose as an O-lineman in the NFL is because I did something wrong.
"That's the thing that Jake does well: He really owns his pass set and he understands what's required of him, or at least where the quarterback's going to be. And now, you put it in the defender's hand. I'm in a position where you either have to bull rush me ... you have to be definitive about what you're going to do to counter me. You want to make them think."
Of course, NFL pass-rushers move at a faster speed, although Jake Matthews faced his share of speed rushers in college at Texas A&M. Still, the elder Matthews doesn't believe the speed factor will be a difficult transition for his son.
"The big thing is you can't out-athlete any of those defensive guys," Bruce Matthews said. "We don't match up, no matter how good an athlete they say you are. But the thing you can do, especially when you know exactly where your quarterback is, you get in that position where you don't equip the defender by taking a crappy set. If I take a good set, protection-wise, and I'm in the right spot and I'm in balance, then it's in his court."
In terms of criticism about him not being a finisher, that's an aspect Jake Matthews already discussed with Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice.
"He knew that he needed to do a better job of finishing because when I asked him at the combine during the interview what he needed to work on, he said 'finishing better,' so he's aware of that," Tice said this offseason.
During minicamp and organized team activities, Tice worked extensively with Matthews on hand placement, so that's obviously an area in need of improvement. Tice is sure to clean up whatever shortcomings the rookie lineman might have.
And it only helps when you have a Hall of Fame father dissecting your play every step of the way.
2hEric D. Williams