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Falcons' Offensive Line Shows Progress


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http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/3062/falcons-offensive-line-finally-shows-progress

Falcons' offensive line shows progress

December, 25, 2013

DEC 25

8:00

AM ET

By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Atlanta Falcons' coaching staff got an early Christmas gift Monday night: improved play on the offensive line.

No, it was not a strong enough performance to wipe out every bad memory from this season. But it was an encouraging sign from a unit that was expected to be dominated by a San Francisco 49ers front seven touted as arguably the best in the NFL.

Falcons coach Mike Smith hasn’t singled out the play of an offensive lineman too often this season. Tuesday afternoon, he singled out three.

atl.gifAlthough quarterback Matt Ryan did a masterful job improvising at times, his pocket was clean for the most part, which helped him complete a career-high 37 passes. He was sacked just once and was able to go deep more than he had all season.

"The interior of the pocket was a little more stout," Smith said. "I thought that we did a very good job with scheming, with chipping, helping and having backs chip out, tight ends chip out before they went into their routes.

"The two tackles [Lamar Holmes and Ryan Schraeder], they had tough draws. I thought they handled it well. I thought Matt [had a] very good pocket as well. And I really feel, after watching the tape on the ride back and watching it this morning, that Joe Hawley did a nice job cleaning the pocket up."

Hawley has been solid at center since taking the starting job away from Peter Konz, so his performance wasn’t that shocking. But Holmes held his own at left tackle against pass-rush demon Aldon Smith, while right tackle Schraeder did the same against Ahmad Brooks. Schrader fared well against Smith, too.

Holmes had a couple of false starts in the first half, but he settled down in the second half and competed with Smith. Bad technique seemed to cause Schraeder to fall on his back during one play, but he quickly shook it off.

"I thought Ryan Schraeder continued to show improvement, as an undrafted rookie getting his second start on 'Monday Night Football,'" Smith said. "I thought he did a nice job. He battled. He battled against a very good front seven."

The Falcons need to find five players capable of battling each and every week. Hawley looks like a keeper at center, while left guard Justin Blalock has been the only offensive lineman to keep his starting job throughout the season. Schraeder continues to show promise as the right tackle of the future, while the Falcons hope to get left tackle Sam Baker back healthy next season after knee surgery.

The coaches still believe Holmes has a bright future despite his obvious struggles. And the fact that Harland Gunn played 45 snaps at left guard against the 49ers, compared with 27 for Konz, is telling in terms of Konz’s status after losing his job at center.

If the line manages to string together back-to-back strong performances, the coaches truly would have something to build upon. And the Falcons finish the season against another one of league’s top defensive fronts in the Carolina Panthers.

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Throughout this season, I have hoped to see our young guys (Holmes, Hawley and Konz) use this season to develop into a real, cohesive unit. This game was provided the first sign of cohesive play. But, in no way am I encouraged by the Monday Night game. The reason is that we still could not provide any reasonable running lanes for our RB's.

We lost the game because of our OL. If we were able to run the ball, Ryan would not have been forced to throw a quick slant to Douglas in the red zone. We do not threaten any defense with a running game. Our OL is to blame.

We need to draft better OL's.

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The "chipping out" was used frequently and obviously worked. Question is, why was it not done more earlier in the season when it would have made a difference? Smitty says he watched the video on the flight back. Wonder if he took out his sharpie and paper when he saw Tru give Boldin that payback shove?tongue.png

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Guest Negatorris

Still couldn't run block for sh*t. The Niners could sell out to stop our passing game without any fear of our rushing attack burning them, which is the main reason Ryan couldn't throw the ball downfield more in the beginning of the game.

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I've been bashing the OL for 13 years now on these boards, but honestly, the last 2 or 3 weeks, they have actually looked decent. Was actually impressed by what I saw in the SF game, especially given the SF front 7. Now, my comments are in pass protection only. We still can't run the ball, especially power runs for isht.

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Scott McCursick what fkn game did you watch son? Them bastids still can't run block worth a dam. That is the very reason we were trying to throw the dam ball at the 49ers frkn 11 yard line when we should have been running it down their throats to kill the clock and win the game. We also failed on yet another frkn 3rd and one. What part of this don't you understand bro? Stay on Bleacher Report until you learn more about the trenches.

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Gunn looks promising, but I'm not sure that I want him at RG. I want a road grader there. Best case scenario for me, would be Gunn turning into Blalock's long term replacement.

I'm not sure that Gunn is the long term answer but he looked good in preseason with his run blocking. I also would like a big road grader at RG, but I haven't heard of a legit one in this draft

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And it only took them all year lol

Exactly. Why did it take so long to see that Konz just wasn't ready? Smith said that Hawley is undersized

but he knows the system. So he chose size over knowledge and technique. All the talk about putting the players

on the field who give the team the best chance of winning was just talk in this case.

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Sorry, but one game and one article do not change what my eyes have seen.

We lose games because of our OL. It is that simple.

TD must make a serious investment in our OL. Sign a good RG in free agency, draft an OT in the first round, and draft another OG later (to groom behind Blalock).

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Sorry, but one game and one article do not change what my eyes have seen.

We lose games because of our OL. It is that simple.

TD must make a serious investment in our OL. Sign a good RG in free agency, draft an OT in the first round, and draft another OG later (to groom behind Blalock).

In no way shape or form does that help out a defense that sorely needs attention as well.

Obviously that help is needed but it can't happen that way. Not when you have a chance to sign a guy like Orakpo and draft a guy like Clowney, possibly sign a guy like Soliali as well.

And sure we could replace Holmes IF the opportunity presents itself but you have to many opportunities to put together a really good dline really fast to sit there a nitpick everything about Holmes.

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People are still excited about Holmes and Schraeder b/c they show flashes. Both of them have shown promise to be good players at their positions. They make mistakes, but they also succeed quite a bit as well. If we were to give them another offseason, with good conditioning, and a solid Oline coach, there is a strong chance that they'll be able to put it all together. They're close and getting closer every game. You can't simply abandon a player, simply b/c they struggle. Coaching requires that you look at the good, and decide whether or not you can expand on that promise. Not everyone will be a day one success story.

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People are still excited about Holmes and Schraeder b/c they show flashes. Both of them have shown promise to be good players at their positions. They make mistakes, but they also succeed quite a bit as well. If we were to give them another offseason, with good conditioning, and a solid Oline coach, there is a strong chance that they'll be able to put it all together. They're close and getting closer every game. You can't simply abandon a player, simply b/c they struggle. Coaching requires that you look at the good, and decide whether or not you can expand on that promise. Not everyone will be a day one success story.

Exactly what I've been saying. Players need time, and offensive lines need some sort of continuity.

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We must've watched different games. I saw Holmes getting abused and Schrader getting trucked.

Schraeder was moreso getting blown by. I saw multiple occasions where Bowman just did a hand move and got by.

Given that, while they are still not an OL that we can count on, they have improved.

Holmes got abused on a few occasions but it was still less than normal. Still having issues with false starts and needs more consistency

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Schraeder was moreso getting blown by. I saw multiple occasions where Bowman just did a hand move and got by.

Given that, while they are still not an OL that we can count on, they have improved.

Holmes got abused on a few occasions but it was still less than normal. Still having issues with false starts and needs more consistency

Holmes needs to stop panicking. That's one of his biggest problems.

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