Among the flurry of activity in the first week of free agency, the Buffalo Bills signed linebacker Tyler Matakevitch. With the Pittsburgh Steelers he was a linebacker mostly in name, playing the vast majority of his snaps on special teams. Since special teams never get any love, lets take a look.
When his opponents were punting, Tyler Matakevitch was usually right in the thick of the action, trying to get the block. With so few punts actually getting blocked, this is a pretty good result. He’s close enough to make Corey Bojorquez think about where he’s stepping and sometimes that can be significant.
You’ll note that Reid Ferguson gives Matakevitch a little shove at the end to run down the field. Blocking on punts isn’t exactly like offense. It’s much more critical to pause than stop your opponent as you’re needed downfield in a hurry. This is important because although Matakevitch does a nice job getting a little extra space, the expectation shouldn’t be that he could do the same thing on defense.
Here he is on the other side of punting. As one of the later players to get downfield (likely by design) Matakevitch can scan the field and make a decision. Seeing the wall develop, he trusts they’ll funnel the play to the side so he can make the play if he needs to. Good patience and an open field tackle on Andre Roberts are a great finish.
And here he is on a kickoff. A lot of the same traits that led to the tackle up above are present here as well. He sees the field well and understands the likely route. Matakevitch was a mainstay on special teams, only remaining on the bench for field goal and extra point attempts.
Going back to 2018, I was able to find a game where Tyler Matakevitch played a significant role on defense. Head coach Sean McDermott has no qualms about putting a rotational or even starting player on special teams, so I wanted to know if Matakevitch might be asked to play some defense.
On the rare play like this one that resembles special teams work, Matakevitch could likely excel. Here he has room to work, can see the play develop right away, and time the tackle. And it works well.
Some of the same things that made the last play work, make this one less successful. Matakevitch has good speed and is fluid but really needed another quarter second or so of patience. At full speed like on special teams, the ball carrier has limited ability to make a move like we see above. The snap isn’t a failure exactly as the back ends up cornered anyway. It does, however, show a major flaw in Matakevitch’s game. As good as he is seeing and anticipating on special teams, he looked lost at linebacker in the game reviewed. Over pursuit and freezing were common issues.
It would be a shock to see Tyler Matakevitch on the field outside of special teams and perhaps a specialty package or two. Despite a lot of positive attributes they don’t universally translate to the linebacker position. While Sean McDermott and assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier have been known to bring out the best in players, it’s valid to question Matakevitch’s ceiling entering his fifth year in the league. The expectation should be that Tyler Matakevitch’s name will continue to be paired with the phrase “special teams ace.”