Starting Left Tackle: Jake Matthews
Whether you love him or hate him, Jake Matthews will be the starting left tackle for years to come. The Falcons selected Matthews at the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft. Atlanta realized they need to re-amp the tackle position, so they decided Matthews was the best available pick. Matthews had an up and down year last year, and was bothered by an ankle sprain for majority of the year. The rookie allowed 35 QB hurries and allowed 7 sacks. Giving him the benefit of the doubt with the ankle sprain and first-year in the league, I believe Matthews will be a lot better than he was in 2014. He showed his potential in various games. In Week 14 against the Packers, Jake Matthews actually held his own against his star pass-rushing cousin, Clay Matthews. With Sam Baker constantly injured, it looks like Matthews will be the cornerstone at left tackle.
Starting Right Tackle: Ryan Schraeder
It seems as Atlanta is rolling the dice with the men competing for the right tackle position. The guys that look to be competing are Ryan Schraeder, Lamar Holmes, Tyler Polumbus, and maybe even Sam Baker. All of these guys are talented, but there is no clear-cut starter. I had to go with Schraeder here because his play last year was comforting. The starting right tackle in 2014, Lamar Holmes, was injured in Week 4 and could not play the rest of the year. Schraeder came in and held his own. He only allowed 3 sacks throughout the year, and played his best football from Weeks 12-16. As long as Matt Ryan is not on the ground, everyone is happy. This position is a big question mark and will be until Week 1. Hopefully Atlanta can find the clear-cut starter by training camp so they can get reps with the first team.
Backups: Sam Baker, Tyler Polumbus, Lamar Holmes
These backups are actually serviceable if called upon. Sam Baker was a first-round draft pick, but injuries have decimated his career. If he can stay healthy, he is good enough to be able to play. But will he be able to stay healthy? Tyler Polumbus comes in as another serviceable backup because of his familiarity with Shanahan’s offensive scheme. Polumbus was not anything spectacular with the Redskins, as he was below average as a run-blocker and pass-blocker. Familiarity with Shanahan is what gets Polumbus a backup role. He was also a solid starter a couple seasons ago, and maybe he just had an off year. Then Atlanta has Lamar Holmes. Holmes was viewed as a disappointment in his early career because he was never in shape and overweight. The tables have turned a little as Holmes played well at the end of the 2013 season and was the starter in 2014 before his season-ending injury. That being said, Holmes held his own in the four weeks he started, and he was viewed as a positive by the Atlanta organization. These three players have plenty of in-game experience, so the backup role for offensive tackles can be viewed positively for the Falcons.