One of the players that I will be rooting for next season is Temple linebacker, Tyler Matakevich. Mata, reminds me of a lot of football players that came out of South Buffalo. Scrappy, hard nosed players with chips on their shoulders. Matakevich won’t wow you with his height; 6’0″ or his weight; 233 pounds. But when you watch Temple game-film the kid is everywhere, doing whatever it takes from play to play.
— Temple Football (@Temple_FB) February 12, 2016
Matakevich had over 100 tackles in every season at Temple. 2015 was no different. He finished the year with 137 tackles which was the 5th most in the nation according to the Real Football Network (RFN). He was one of the top tacklers in the nation but where were those tackles made? Thirty nine percent or 54 tackles by Tyler were made from behind the line of scrimmage to two yards. That is the kind of production you want to see from your linebackers.
Versus the Run
Tyler did a great job disrupting opposing run games. Run stopping is definitely his strong suit. He had 35 run disruptions (24th most overall) and 16.5 run stuffs (14th most overall). Most of his production were due to his instincts. He won’t be near the top of the draft class when it comes to his forty yard dash, but he makes up for it with his football instincts and recognition.
Matakevich sees the near guard pull, he beats the guard to the hole and makes the tackle.
On this play, Mata relies on his defensive lineman to maintain their gap integrity and he “fills the window.” Rex would love that. His instincts worked in his favor here.
On the following play Mata recognizes the fold block. He gets downhill, takes on the block with the proper shoulder allowing him to keep his outside shoulder free. The solid technique forces the RB to cut it back.
Tyler doesn’t shy away from contact versus the run either. He was the play-making LB in the Temple defense. On this play, he knew that the RB was running out of real estate so Mata takes on two lead blockers to blow the play up.
Mata isn’t afraid to come downhill and take on blockers. He reads the play, fills, absorbs the blow and makes the tackle.
One issue I have with his game is when the defensive lineman are in an odd front. He may have trouble in the Bills’ scheme when he has to read the defensive lineman who are two gapping. Look at how he is indecisive and gets caught in the wash.
Mata isn’t the fastest linebacker, so to compensate he will sometimes try to under cut blocks. He tries it here and the RB blows by him. Something that Kiko used to do frequently. But, Kiko had the speed and athleticism to make up ground.
His physical skills make keep him off the field in the NFL. Look at how a superior ND offensive lineman handled him here.
There are times that he needs to play assignment football, but his eyes and instincts lead him to make bad decisions. On the following play the defensive end has the RB and Mata should have the QB on the zone read play. Instead he bites hard on the inside zone, gets caught too deep inside and the TE easily just walls him off.
As you can see his instincts sometimes work against him. Teams know that is one of his biggest assets so they use it against him. Teams throw a lot of split flow plays, reverses and fake reverses to keep him off balance and to move him out of position. Well those very same problems arise versus the pass as well.
Versus the Pass
Where Tyler struggles is in the passing game. Teams continuously targeted him. In 2015 he was targeted 44 times which was the 2nd most in the nation. Of those targets, 29 were completed when he was the primary man in coverage according to RFN. He surrendered 355 yards which was around 12.2 yards per completion. Here are some reasons why.
Too often he is slow to read the play-action pass. He is so focused on getting downhill versus the run that he takes an excessive amount of read steps, putting him out of position. He didn’t have the recovery speed in college, there is no way he can make up that ground vs. NFL talent. He gets bailed out on this play.
Much like his instinctive play versus the run, he was also very instinctive against the pass. Sometimes his instincts were correct sometimes they weren’t. Again he is fooled by the play-action, and totally out of position but the DE helped slow down the crossing route.
Although he gave up many completions, he also broke up his fair share.
Good, instinctive read here.
According to RFN, he was 2nd in the nation in passes defensed and 1st in the nation with 5 interceptions.
Here is one of his picks from 2015.
Mata finished with 4.5 sacks, 3 of which came against Penn State. He isn’t the scariest blitzer, but he does disguise it and time the blitz well.
Tyler Matakevich may not be drafted until the 4th or 5th round but that isn’t a bad thing. He is a guy that can contribute on special teams.
Tyler Matakevich isn’t really a guy that fits the Bills’ scheme. In Rex’ scheme, defensive lineman are asked to two gap quite often and the inside linebackers are asked to fill the windows. That means, the LBs need to read the action of the defensive lineman then fill the window that opens up. At times Mata struggled to execute that sort of responsibility. Therefore he does not bode well in a two gap defense. In my opinion, he fits a one gap down-hill scheme.
NFL teams will isolate and attack him in pass coverage. There aren’t many ways to hide players in the NFL. Matakevich will definitely struggle against the pass at the next level. Especially in Rex Ryan’s defense. In Rex’ scheme Tyler would be projected to play ILB. That position is often asked to blitz or cover the 3rd WR/TEs on blitzes. He doesn’t have the speed to play man coverage and struggled with his spatial ability in zone.
Mata was a great player in college, on a veteran defense. His instincts are innate, but that skill can get you benched just as fast as it got you on the field.
Although he may not fit in Buffalo’s scheme I will still be rooting for him over the next few years. If he is plugged into the right scheme, I could see him being a starter down the line.
Here are the other prospect breakdowns: