READ: The best tackle in the draft?
VIDEO: Matthews' highlights at Texas A&M
AUDIO: Texans 24 Hour Radio Podcast
Texans Draft Central
As part of our Texans 'On the Clock' draft profiles, we reached out to various media members who covered the featured prospect. In this week's installment we sat down with Aubrey Bloom of Bryan/College Station Eagle.
HoustonTexans.com: How was Jake Matthews viewed as a recruit coming into Texas A&M? Was he expected to compete as a freshman?
Bloom: Matthews was certainly a highly regarded freshman, and A&M's offensive line the year before he arrived wasn't exactly drawing headlines so I think most people expected him to compete. He was part of a tremendous offensive line recruiting class by then-coach Mike Sherman. Most people expected that Matthews and classmate Luke Joeckel, both ranked in the national top 50 by Rivals.com, would see the field early, and both ended up starting at tackle by the end of their freshman seasons. Cedric Ogbuehi, who announced that he was returning to A&M for his senior season, was also part of that class so potentially that class could have three first-round draft picks at offensive tackle.
HoustonTexans.com: After an injury, Matthews started seven games in his first year at College Station. How would you analyze how he played in his first season?
Bloom: A&M's 2010 season started off pretty terribly, but after the Aggies made a midseason switch at quarterback to Ryan Tannehill, things really took off and the Aggies surged up the polls late in the season.
After allowing 23 sacks through the first six games, A&M allowed just 14 in the last seven. That's not all because of Jake Matthews, because Tannehill got rid of the ball quicker and was more mobile than Jerrod Johnson, but the offensive line was a big part of the late season run. Of course there were still some freshman moments, but it was pretty obvious even than that Matthews was going to be a great one.
HoustonTexans.com: He's played tackle on both sides of the line. Where do you feel is his best position going forward in the NFL?
Bloom: I think Matthews best aspect is his versatility, so I'm not sure he has a best position necesssarily. He can really play all of the positions well. I think his current body is built for tackle, but because of the tempo A&M plays with he's probably a little lighter than he will be in the NFL. I think he could play guard at a high level in the NFL also.
HoustonTexans.com: From a scheme perspective, how much difference was there in what Matthews and the offensive line were expected to do under Mike Sherman's attack compared to Kevin Sumlin's?
Bloom: In some ways it was very different, and in some it really wasn't. Both incorporated some zone blocking schemes in the run game. Sherman's scheme had more power running, which was something we didn't see often with Sumlin, but the biggest difference was the quarterbacks. Pass blocking for a pocket passer is one thing, pass blocking for Johnny Manziel is a completely different thing. With Manziel, plays don't just last four of five seconds, Matthews and the other linemen had to learn to keep blocking and even learn to find more people to block when Manziel would extend plays. Matthews excelled in both offenses.
HoustonTexans.com: In your opinion, was he better suited for one type of offense more than the other?
Bloom: I think all linemen prefer to run the ball downhill at the defensive line, so he probably liked playing in Sherman's offense a little bit more, but I thought he did well in both. Fans want to see tape of linemen blowing defensive players off the line and pancaking them but in the spread scheme there just really isn't that much of that. Like most linemen, he would also benefit from having a more predictable quarterback. As good as Manziel was at running out of pressure, he could also sometimes run into it which made it tough for his line at times.
HoustonTexans.com: What are Matthews greatest strengths as a lineman?
Bloom: He's got a lot of physical attributes that make him great, but his biggest strength is probably his work ethic. He's a real technician. He's always working on the little things that will help him get an edge in the hand-to-hand battles off the edge.
HoustonTexans.com: Matthews was part of offensive lines that were routinely viewed as among the best in the nation. What about that unit, other than ability, allowed them to gel and have such great success?
Bloom: For one, the group was around each other a long time so it had good chemistry. I mentioned earlier that Matthews, Joeckel and Ogbuehi were all in that same class, but so was guard Jarvis Harrison. You're talking about three national top 100 recruits there along with Harrison who most people think will be drafted next season. Another reason is that they had great quarterbacks. The last three seasons of A&M football are the three highest passing yardage seasons in school history. They protected their quarterbacks, and the quarterbacks made the most of it, there's a reason that Ryan Tannehill went in the top ten and why Johnny Manziel likely will also. There was a lot of talent around this group as well as in it.
You also can't overlook the coaching that this group had. Mike Sherman and the offensive line coach Jim Turner are NFL coaches who brought that experience to this group, and Kevin Sumlin and B.J. Anderson did a good job adding to that and building off of what Sherman and Turner did.
HoustonTexans.com: How does Matthews compare with Luke Joeckel, who played the same position and was a high selection (2nd overall) in last year's NFL draft?
Bloom: I think Joeckel was more athletic than Matthews, but Matthews is more polished. Obviously growing up around a great football mind like his father Bruce Matthews helped prepare him for life as an offensive lineman. I don't think Jake is a guy that's going to wow anybody with his athleticism or bench press reps, but he's a guy who almost never makes mistakes. He's mentally tough, and he focuses on the little things, those are the two things that make him great.