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2014 Atlanta Falcons: Offensive Line Shake-Up May Not Dig As Deep As Fans Want


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2014 Atlanta Falcons: Offensive Line Shake-Up May Not Dig as Deep as Fans Want

BY

SCOTT CARASIK (FEATURED COLUMNIST) ON DECEMBER 13, 2013

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The Atlanta Falcons need to completely revamp their offensive line.

Or so the fans say.

Atlanta could have at least an NFL-average offensive line if it tried to keep some continuity, got healthy and added two or three guys for competition at multiple spots. The issues along the offensive line come from injuries and a lack of depth.

In the offseason, it will not be surprising if general manager Thomas Dimitroff and the Falcons brain trust think the same thing. The Falcons possess the talent to have a top-tier line in the NFL. But adding some competition would be wise.

However, a top-10 pick in the line isn't needed to succeed, especially since the Falcons need a guard more than a tackle. And honestly, a scheme change for the offensive line could be the best way to improve it in all facets.

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Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Baker playing just three games all year doesn't help offensive line depth.

Talent is already here; it's just injured or not getting a chance

Believe it or not, Atlanta has spent quite a bit on the talent that should be starting for the offensive line. Between multiple $35-plus million contracts, a first-round pick, a pair of second-round picks, a pair of third-round picks, a fourth-round pick and a fifth-round pick, the Falcons have exhausted resources up front.

And in doing so, they have three tackles who are starting caliber in key re-sign target Mike Johnson and under contract Sam Baker and Lamar Holmes. They have two starting-caliber interior linemen in Justin Blalock and Joe Hawley and two depth players in Peter Konz and Garrett Reynolds.

Then the team has the undrafted players who all have added solid depth, including Ryan Schraeder, Harland Gunn and Terren Jones. Those are 10 players who should all have training camp roster spots when the 2014 camp opens. That leaves just five spots open from the 15 that Atlanta had in camp in 2013.

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Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Adding more talent for competition never hurts

Despite the Falcons having 10 players who should be competitive on the current roster, they need to bring in talent in the form of a free agent and a draft pick who can compete for a starting job along the offensive line.

The Falcons should bring in players who can compete for the starting role at right guard and right tackle. Competition breeds success, and the only way for the Falcons offensive line to be good again is to increase the competition along the front line.

Competition should also breed depth. Without competition at linebacker, the Falcons would have never seen what Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu were capable of. If they can find another Worrilow, Harvey Dahl or Tyson Clabo type, the Falcons will improve their line tenfold.

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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

A top-five or -10 pick is overkill for the line

Breaking news: The draft is seven rounds long. It's tough to believe sometimes, but second- and even high third-round picks can provide instant quality starters—especially when you look at offensive linemen at the positions that the Falcons need to target.

As noted earlier, the tackle situation doesn't call for a pick to be spent. But looking even further than that, a tackle in the top 10 takes multiple seasons to get to the Pro Bowl level that he is expected to reach.

And if recent history is any indicator, it's unlikely that the Falcons will bring in an instant Pro Bowl-caliber tackle with a top-10 pick. The following were top-10 tackle selections around the NFL since Thomas Dimitroff took over as GM for the Falcons and their Pro Football Focus grades for their first three years:

Tackles Taken In the Top 10 - Since 2008 Year Pick No. Player Rookie Grade 2nd Year Grade 3rd Year Grade 2008 1 Jake Long +32.3 +39.5 +34.7 2009 2 Jason Smith +3.2 -6.5 -3.0 2009 6 Andre Smith +1.7 -15.2 +8.5 2009 9 Eugene Monroe +4.3 -13.0 +22.0 2010 4 Trent Williams +2.0 +10.1 +18.8 2010 6 Russell Okung -13.4 -1.0 +21.0 2011 9 Tyron Smith +24.0 +3.8 +19.4 2012 4 Matt Kalil +15.8 -4.7 2013 1 Eric Fisher -16.6 2013 2 Luke Joeckel -6.1 2013 4 Lane Johnson -2.4

Grades Courtesy ProFootballFocus

As you can see, it's unlikely that taking a tackle that high will have the impact that fans think that it will have. Just three out of the 11 tackles taken in the top 10 since 2008 have had a good (plus-10.0) rookie season.

Most had average-to-poor rookie years. Atlanta already has two average tackles in Lamar Holmes and Sam Baker. So how does adding an NFL average player at tackle help the Falcons?

It makes much more sense for the team to hold off until the early second round to bring in a guy who can play guard and allow the pairing of Holmes and Baker to play tackle. With a better interior line, the Falcons would protect Matt Ryan much more effectively.

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Rob Carr/Getty Images

The issue is inside at guard; the Falcons have the tackles

At offensive tackle, Atlanta has high-dollar former first-round pick Sam Baker, former third-round pick Lamar Holmes, former undrafted free agents Terren Jones and Ryan Schraeder and former third-round pick Mike Johnson.

The Falcons should make Johnson a key re-sign target, as he could compete for the starting job at right tackle. But also, they should bring in a guy like Rodger Saffold, who can play left or right tackle while also bringing competition to the guard position.

Even if the Falcons have to start Holmes and Baker at tackle, they are both average at worst when they are healthy. But the real issue for the Falcons is at guard. They have just one guard who is starting caliber in anchor Justin Blalock.

Outside of him, they have Peter Konz and Garrett Reynolds with starting experience. They need to focus on bringing in a truly great right guard. Konz will never be that guy and at this point is just a backup. Reynolds has never been a starting-caliber player.

If the Falcons want to improve their offensive line, they will bring in a starting right guard who can be an asset in the NFL. And ideally, they will get him through the draft in the form of either David Yankey from Stanford or Cyril Richardson from Baylor.

Atlanta Falcons' Potential Options at Each Position in 2014 Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle Sam Baker Justin Blalock Joe Hawley Draft Pick Lamar Holmes Lamar Holmes Free Agent Sam Baker Draft Pick Peter Konz Ryan Schraeder Free Agent Garrett Reynolds Draft Pick Free Agent

Projected Starters

The Falcons offensive line could take on a ton of different configurations in 2014. However, spending their first-round pick on an offensive lineman would be unwise. On top of that, it would make no legitimate sense to go after left tackles.

Atlanta's biggest need on the line is at guard. And with better guards, the tackles will be much less of an issue. So, Falcons fans, don't be shocked when the Falcons neglect the offensive line again this coming offseason but wind up getting much better results in 2014.

http://bleacherrepor...ep-as-fans-want

Pretty good article

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article is a lil' pollyanna-ish for me. I agree with some of Scott's points like:

  • Falcons don't have to draft O-Line in 1st round (top 10)
  • offensive tackle is not as bad as offensive guard on the Falcons

but saying:

Talent is already here; it's just injured or not getting a chance

Believe it or not, Atlanta has spent quite a bit on the talent that should be starting for the offensive line. Between multiple $35-plus million contracts, a first-round pick, a pair of second-round picks, a pair of third-round picks, a fourth-round pick and a fifth-round pick, the Falcons have exhausted resources up front.

(g-dawg: while true, this is IRRELEVANT!!!)

And in doing so, they have three tackles who are starting caliber in key re-sign target Mike Johnson and under contract Sam Baker and Lamar Holmes.

(g-dawg: jury is out on all three of these guys - for different reasons (health, ability, etc))

They have two starting-caliber interior linemen in Justin Blalock and Joe Hawley and two depth players in Peter Konz and Garrett Reynolds.

Then the team has the undrafted players who all have added solid depth, including Ryan Schraeder, Harland Gunn and Terren Jones. Those are 10 players who should all have training camp roster spots when the 2014 camp opens. That leaves just five spots open from the 15 that Atlanta had in camp in 2013.w

(g-dawg: since when is Joe Hawley starting caliber? because he is better than Konz he is starting caliber?)

(g-dawg: Garrett Reynolds should be depth on no NFL team - he's awful - please dear God, let Dimitroff cut Reynolds)

(g-dawg: Schraeder, Gunn and Jones are just names at this point - totally unproven good or bad)

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Good article, valid points with no need for a tackle in the top 10,and stating RG is our biggest weakness. I do believe Holmes can be our future LT. And I do hope we cut Baker as soon as possible although it won't happen this off-season. Drafting a RG in yankey,Jackson,Richardson will be a step in the right direction, signing the top RT avaialbe is a move we must make(hopefully it's not scaffold as I believe he is awful) let Konz and Hawley battle for the C spot while also signing someone like Fernando Velasco would be a wise idea.

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This article was way too long and confusing to simply say the obvious. Blalock is fine at RG. We have the tackles between Baker, Holmes, Schrader, and Johnson that we could be OK with finding two starters from. But we have to have an above average to good LG and C this offseason. Konz, Hawley, and Reynolds are backups at best.

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Not bad as far as some points, but would be really nice to trade down this draft and pick up a quality first round talent on both lines. Our spot shouldn't be wasted on Clowney. It's not about one chess piece for this team. I could be wrong, but load up both lines this draft is the answer.

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How could anyone watch Baker's career and believe he should still be starting? He had ONE good (not great) year, in a contract year no less, and has been hurt virtually the entire rest of his career. Baker is the depth, even if he is overpaid. I would feel better about developing Holmes at this point.

With that said, barring some unforeseen changes, I'm on the offensive tackle bandwagon. This team goes as Matt Ryan goes, love him or hate him. HE is the one we're tied to, not Baker. We have to give him every opportunity to succeed and that includes a top ten tackle.

I would personally pull the trigger on either Matthews, Kouandjio, or Erving in the top ten and do what must be done to get Yankey and move Blalock to RG so we're not starting two rookies on the right side. Holmes, Yankey, Hawley (or FA), Blalock, and Kouandjio is a heck of a lot better than what we had this year.

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LMAO at trying to say Holmes and SackMaker are decent tackles. They both suck. If we go to war with them in 2014 and they suck up the place again somebody needs to be fired, starting with Scott McCursik who is a frkn Bleacher Creature.

Truth be told all of our Olinemen suck, including Blalock who is a decent pass blocker but aint never been a good run blocker.

An Oline shake up needs to be priority #1 closely followed by replacing the three average to poor DTs who will be free agents.

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I disagree that we need a guard more than tackle............. the terrible RT play has trickled down and hurt our offense more than guard play has.

If baker can come back healthy then it is not a big of a problem......... Holmes has developed enough to put back on the right side.

but that is a big big if.

I personally would like to see Holmes stay on the left side as he has developed nicely there.

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LMAO at trying to say Holmes and SackMaker are decent tackles. They both suck. If we go to war with them in 2014 and they suck up the place again somebody needs to be fired, starting with Scott McCursik who is a frkn Bleacher Creature.

Truth be told all of our Olinemen suck, including Blalock who is a decent pass blocker but aint never been a good run blocker.

An Oline shake up needs to be priority #1 closely followed by replacing the three average to poor DTs who will be free agents.

our ol isnt as bad as your terrible nicknames for literally every ******* thing under the sun.

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the falcons have the talent to have a top ol? uh, in a word, no.

With the right system I think it does.

we have a lot of guys who are good athletes for their size....

Holmes in particular is VERY agile for a man his size.

Konz is no slouch in that area as well , I have seen him get up to the second level as quickly as anyone.

The single biggest issue for the oline right now is not a lack of talent but it is they are not playing as one unit... they are not seeing things as one.

The fortunately is very correctable.

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LMAO at trying to say Holmes and SackMaker are decent tackles. They both suck. If we go to war with them in 2014 and they suck up the place again somebody needs to be fired, starting with Scott McCursik who is a frkn Bleacher Creature.

Truth be told all of our Olinemen suck, including Blalock who is a decent pass blocker but aint never been a good run blocker.

An Oline shake up needs to be priority #1 closely followed by replacing the three average to poor DTs who will be free agents.

I now have a great reason to block you.
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Yeah, I don't see the Falcons drafting an OT. Sam was just given a new deal and Holmes appears to be better at LT than RT. The real problem is on the inside. There is a pair of really talented Guards in the 2014 draft, but I think the Falcons would need to slide back to maximize the value on drafting one of those guys. I expect that 1st round pick to be spent on a defensive front 7 player.

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LMAO at trying to say Holmes and SackMaker are decent tackles. They both suck. If we go to war with them in 2014 and they suck up the place again somebody needs to be fired, starting with Scott McCursik who is a frkn Bleacher Creature.

Truth be told all of our Olinemen suck, including Blalock who is a decent pass blocker but aint never been a good run blocker.

An Oline shake up needs to be priority #1 closely followed by replacing the three average to poor DTs who will be free agents.

For once you and I completely agree--except I do like scar lol

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