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D. Orlando LedbetterD. Orlando Ledbetter

Jake Matthews was one of NFL’s most improved players

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122815 ATLANTA: Falcons tackle Jake Matthews takes the field to play the Panthers in a football game on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons tackle Jake Matthews takes the field to play the Panthers in a football game on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH – Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews, who started all 16 games last season, was one of the most improved players in the league last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

Matthews, who the Falcons picked with the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, was forced to start at left tackle as a rookie after Sam Baker went down with a season-ending knee injury during an exhibition game.

Matthews, the son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, understandably struggled while battling his way through 15 games as a rookie. He played had only two entire games where he didn’t allow a sack or hit and allowed one or fewer hurries.

Matthews was rated 56th (last) of the players who took more than 50 percent of their team’s snaps. It was a baptismal by fire as he played 962 snaps, committed 11 penalties, gave up seven sacks, nine quarterback hits and 35 quarterback hurries.

Matthews, as we projected in the Countdown to Camp last season, picked up his play considerable in his second season.

“I thought in the run game you really see his feet and the movement on the outside zone,” said Falcons coach Dan Quinn, who noted Matthews play late in the season. “That’s when he’s at his best. When we get him out, I think it was clear to see on the touchdown run with Devonta (Freeman in the win over Carolina) and him pulling and getting outside. That’s when man, he runs his feet, you just see the speed and the quickness in the way that he comes off the ball.”

Matthews moved up to the 19th spot and was give a 79.5 grade (round that up to a B).

Matthews’ pass blocking efficiency jumped to a very respectable 95.7 this season. In 2014, his 51 total pressures allowed were the fourth-most of any tackle. He was able to cut that number down to 38 total pressures this season.

Oakland cornerback Dave Amerson was the most improved player followed by Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles.

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