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Falcons' Mike Tice Works His Magic With Rebuilt Offensive Line


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Falcons' Mike Tice works his magic with rebuilt offensive line

By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Diligent Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice neglected to get much rest this week.

Hours after his rebuilt line executed its best overall performance of the season at Green Bay, Tice was back to work on three hours sleep, game-planning for yet another formidable defensive front in the Steelers.

"The first thing we do is try to know your guys and make sure you can put your guys in positions that they can handle, athletically and mentally," Tice said. "Secondly, you identify the opponent and where we’re going to need protection -- and I’m not talking about pass protection -- protection or help with a guy that’s our opponent because we don’t match up as well, and give (our) guy a chance to succeed when a matchup isn’t in his favor.

[+] Enlargenfl_a_tice_ps_300x200.jpg
AP Photo/Bob LeveroneFalcons' offensive line coach Mike Tice has helped his unit succeed despite a rash of injuries this season.

"I don’t mean our guy is going to get his *** kicked 10 plays in a row, but when he has 10 plays against a certain guy and he’s only going to win three or four. Now, that guy needs a little help. So, that’s how we try to start the week."

Obviously, Tice has found the formula for success. Most folks figured the Falcons might get their "*** kicked" up front after losing five offensive linemen to season-ending injuries, including regulars Sam Baker (left tackle), Joe Hawley (center), and Lamar Holmes (tackle). Tice has worked with five different line combinations this season, including three starting centers and four right tackles since the preseason.

Now, with an undrafted rookie in James Stone at center and an undrafted second-year player in Ryan Schraeder at right tackle, Tice has found a way to orchestrate a success story. How many teams could go through so many bodies and combinations along the line and still put a respectable unit on the field?

"Mike’s done a real good job with the offensive line," Falcons coach Mike Smith said of Tice. "We had rash of injuries early on. We’ve had the next-man-up attitude, and those guys have developed. We anticipated that they would. We said at the beginning of the year that we liked the depth of our offensive line, and we had to go out there and play some players who haven’t had a lot of experience.

"Mike has done a really good job of getting those guys ready, along with (assistant offensive line coach) Wade Harman. And when they play together, they've played as a unit. It’s shown over the last three to four weeks."

The Falcons have gone with the same starting five for the past six games with rookie left tackle Jake Matthews and veteran guards Justin Blalock and Jon Asamoah joining Stone and Schraeder. Matthews is playing his best ball after finally overcoming the effects of an early season high-ankle sprain. Asamoah has been the most consistent, and Blalock has been stout in pass protection. Stone’s high intelligence helped him make a seamless transition into the starting role, and Schraeder epitomizes the bigger, tougher, stronger motto the Falcons brought into the 2014 season.

Quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked nine times in back-to-back games against the Bears and Ravens. Since then, Ryan has been sacked a total of 10 times. As a result of the improved protection, Ryan has gotten more opportunities to throw deep to Julio Jones.

"We knew when we got together that we’d have to be great in pass protection, because we had such great receivers," Tice said. "So, in a nutshell, we set a goal. One of those goals was to be in the top 10 in the least amount of sacks. Right now, we’re at 12 (25 sacks allowed), so we can do it."

Tice praised his linemen for their overall cerebral approach and ability to communicate. Run blocking is still an area that needs some refining, but he believes the effort is there.

"I like all the pulling, but you don’t see much pulling anymore," Tice said. "We haven’t been real consistent with our pulling game. We’ve had so many missing pieces, and the run game takes cohesion, with two guys working together. I like where our run game is going. Our pass protection is ahead of our run game, which is good, because we’re a throwing team."

The key for the Falcons is sustaining the line improvement over the last three games, starting with Sunday’s matchup against the Steelers. Tice started the game-planning by identifying the tough matchup for both Schraeder and Matthews in containing outside linebacker Jason Worilds, who is second on the Steelers with 4.5 sacks and has a team-leading 14 quarterback hits.

Tice is confident his players will get the job done, just like his linemen are confident in how he coaches them.

"He knows football," Schraeder said of Tice. "He’s been doing this for a long time and he’s always on you about something you need to improve. He’ll consistently get it engrained in you throughout the week so you correct it for the next game.

"As far as the schemes, he just knows how to explain things really well and make it simple for guys. He’ll figure out how you learn, whether it’s visual or actually doing it. He just makes things easier on you."

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one thing I noticed in the run blocking is that Jackson tends to try to dance around in the backfield too much. he should be getting 4 or 5 yards a carry easily. a more decisive runner would, and so far all our RBs have the tendency to dance.

For that to happen our G's need to get that initial push and SJAX needs to hit the A-gap and yep I'll agree 4-5 yards every time basically just follow Stone which ever way he goes its 2 on 1 the holes right there most of the time.

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Now that's a coach in a sport that can be very complicated he has the right method in simplifying the game which has the knock on effect of speeding up learning.

To me that's a key element in coaching simplifying the complicated.

Mike Tice take a bow.

If only Mike Nolan could just simplify the complicated for the defensive players.

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Would make a decent OC.

Tice was the OC for the Bears in 2012, his only year as an OC. The Bears finished averaging almost 24 points per game on offense, and posted a 10-6 record that season. However, the Bears started out 7-1 before a 3-5 finish, which kept them out of the playoffs. Virtually the entire Bears coaching staff was let go following the 2012 season.

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Tice was the OC for the Bears in 2012, his only year as an OC. The Bears finished averaging almost 24 points per game on offense, and posted a 10-6 record that season. However, the Bears started out 7-1 before a 3-5 finish, which kept them out of the playoffs. Virtually the entire Bears coaching staff was let go following the 2012 season.

Forgot about that. He would have more talent here though. Ryan > Cutler.

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Nolan and Smith

I have to disagree... That is one of the main points of having position coaches. Smith ultimately approves the game plan but a HC in the nfl has FAR too much going on then to be worrying about sub packages and who is getting rotated in and not.

We had a game early this year when Smith was PISSED at Cox for trying to get a substitution in that almost cost us a 12 men on the field.

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I have to disagree... That is one of the main points of having position coaches. Smith ultimately approves the game plan but a HC in the nfl has FAR too much going on then to be worrying about sub packages and who is getting rotated in and not.

We had a game early this year when Smith was PISSED at Cox for trying to get a substitution in that almost cost us a 12 men on the field.

so you think Cox is the one rotating players in and out...

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so you think Cox is the one rotating players in and out...

yeah... I think its a combination of him and Nolan more than than Smitty.

Like I said that is kinda of the purpose of having positional coaches. HC's typically have way too much going on to devote time to making sure a player is in or not.

Now they can ( obviously) overrule........... like I remember a preseason game.... I wanna say it was week 2 where They were going to take Freeman out but Smitty wanted him left in to see what he can do longer.

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