Where do I begin? This question must have crossed Dave Gettleman's mind a least a dozen times shortly after being hired as the new general manager of the Carolina Panthers. After all, there were so many holes to fill, so little time to waste and so little money to spend. But deep down inside, he knew where he wanted to start.
As the previous Director of Pro Personnel for the New York Giants, Gettleman was able to witness first hand what a two-time Super Bowl winning roster looks like. This is the main reason why it shouldn't have caught anyone off guard when he elected to use his first two selections as a general manager on defensive tackle's Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei in the 2013 NFL Draft.
However, this much needed long term infusion of talent on the inside of the defensive line came at the short term expense of the offensive line. Unfortunately, the band aids that Gettleman applied over these gaping holes have since been ripped off one by one, leaving nothing more than an ugly mess. This calculated risk of subtraction by addition has seemingly disrupted the evolution of Cam Newton's game, and the results thus far have been overwhelmingly depressing.
With that being said, the Panthers may very well be headed toward a top five pick. If this does indeed become a reality, there is a strong case to be made for upgrading the position that may benefit Newton the most, and we should all know by now which one that is after last week's deflating loss to the Buffalo Bills.
I hate to even mention the debacle on the right side of the offensive line because of how much I like his story, but I must be blunt about Byron Bell. He just isn't the answer. The way he gets abused in pass protection could be more easily overlooked if he were a devastatingly effective run blocker, but he isn't. Enough said.
On the other side, thirty-three year old Jordan Gross has looked decent through the first two games of his eleventh season, but it is only a matter of time before his ability to protect the blindside of our franchise quarterback falls off the deep end. Besides, he basically became a one year rental after restructuring his contract back in late March. This leads me to today's prospect.
Without further ado, I give you Jake Matthews, the son of Hall of Fame guard Bruce Matthews and cousin of current Green Bay Packer phenom Clay Matthews. As they say, it's in the blood. Nepotism aside, let's examine this prospect a bit more closely.
First of all, he is a powerful run blocker who plays with a nasty streak. The Panthers need some attitude on the offensive line, and Matthews is the perfect prospect to provide it. Secondly, he is a sound technician, who uses near flawless hand placement when getting into defenders and displays a smooth kick slide when pass protecting. You can also tell he's worked hard at his craft by how little he bends his waist when blocking. Instead, Matthews' displays excellent leverage and keeps his base strong by bending at the knees. Lastly, he is very intelligent, which is usually a distinguishing mark of successful offensive lineman.
But like all prospects, Matthews isn't without shortcomings. For starters, he lacks elite athleticism. In other words, you probably won't see him run a sub 5.0 forty like Eric Fisher and his former teamer Luke Joeckel did at the combine. But I don't put too much stock in straight line speed, especially for an offensive lineman. His lateral quickness is what matters the most, and he is quick enough to be effective in that respect. Additionally, no one knows the length of his arms, but they appear to be on the shorter side. If this is true, it could be enough to drop him out of the top five. Honestly, Matthews' strengths outweigh his weaknesses, and scrutinizing him any further would amount to little more than meaningless nitpicking.
As it stands, the jury is still out in regards to where he translates at the next level. His first three seasons at Texas A&M were spent at right tackle, where he thrived. Matthews is presently getting his chance to show scouts what he can do on the left side now that Joeckel has moved on to the NFL, and through the first three games, he has performed admirably. By the time this season is over, professional scouts will have a full year of Matthews' film to dissect in order to get a better feel for his potential at left tackle in the NFL.
If Matthews proves to be shaky as the season moves on, look for his stock to go down a bit. I personally think that he will only improve as he gets more repetitions against the best the SEC has to offer. This in turn will improve his value even more. Either way, you can be sure the Panthers scouting department is already looking hard at Matthews, along with a plethora of other offensive lineman. With that being said, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if Gettleman went back to back on the offensive line in the first two rounds of next year's draft. Frankly, the way things are looking, he may have no other choice.
What do you think CSR?