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Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews confident in abilities in new scheme

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Although Jake Matthews wasn't a full participant during the first day of mandatory minicamp Tuesday, the Atlanta Falcons second year left tackle looked confident on his feet coming back from January foot surgery.

Matthews is unlikely to be full speed through the three-day minicamp. The former first-round draft pick, however, expressed no doubt about being back to normal by the time the regular season begins.

"I knew it was going to be a (process), but I was surprised how quickly I woke up the next morning and felt good," Matthews said. "It's actually feeling really good. So I'm real confident, real excited for what's to come."

Matthews suffered a Lisfranc ligament tear in last season's finale against the Carolina Panthers. The full recovery time from such a surgery is four months, but there was no reason for the Falcons to rush back their prize offensive lineman any sooner than necessary.

Although Matthews endured some adversity as a rookie -- most notably a severely sprained ankle early in the season -- he has plenty of ability to thrive in the new offense. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's system relies on athletic linemen capable of getting out and moving in an outside zone blocking scheme.

"It's about athleticism and speed," Matthews said. "We're trying to beat the defense off the ball, outwork them and outrun them, and beat them with angles, all that stuff ... cutting them off. I think it something that's well-suited for me. I feel like I have that lateral quickness and I can be a big help in this offense. So I'm excited for it."

The Falcons need Matthews to play up to his great potential while remaining durable at the same time. The options at left tackle were reduced after the team released often-injured veteran Sam Baker, the starter at the position before Matthews' arrival. Lamar Holmes was working as the team's first-team left tackle this offseason with Matthews on the mend. However, Holmes was demoted to second-string right tackle for the first day of minicamp, allowing veteran Tyler Polumbus to move in as the first-team left tackle. The scheme might not be an ideal fit for Holmes, although he showed commitment by dropping weight this offseason.

No matter how the line is constructed right now -- center James Stone, left guard Mike Person and Polumbus are destined to give way to Joe Hawley, Chris Chester and Matthews -- the Falcons simply need to find a solid five by the start of the season. And Matthews likely has to be the anchor of the group.

"If they move me to right tackle again this year, if they move me to center, I don't care," Matthews said in a team-first manner. "I'll play whatever they tell me to. So, I feel confident wherever I am."