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The coach tasked with turning the Falcons offensive line around in 2020

Falcons offensive line coach Chris Morgan might have the biggest responsibility of any of the coaches on Dan Quinn's staff heading into the 2020 season

Aug 21, 2020 at 01:05 PM
 

Unknown

Kelsey Conway

AtlantaFalcons.com reporter

 

 

 
Kaleb McGary on his confidence, the importance of scrimmages 
Of all of the assistant coaches on Dan Quinn's staff, offensive line coach Chris Morgan might be the one with the biggest responsibility heading into the 2020 season. 

Atlanta's offensive line has to play better for the team to get back to playing football in the postseason, it's plain and simple. For two seasons now, Matt Ryan has been sacked more than 40-plus times. They've also finished at the bottom of the league in rushing offense in back-to-back seasons. 

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Morgan is a proven offensive line coach in the NFL and when the Falcons enjoyed their most successful season on offense in 2016, his leadership with his position group was an important piece of why the team went on to win the NFC Championship and earned a trip to Super Bowl LI.

With five former first-round picks at his disposal now, Morgan has the talent he needs to put it all together. And more importantly, he has the buy-in and belief from his players to do just that. 

"I think he's the best coach for me to develop and maximize myself," said Chris Lindstrom, the Falcons' starting right guard. "He's teaching the fundamentals necessary to play offensive line in the NFL and the urgency and toughness you need to play with as an offensive line. We know we need to do better as a unit and we're being accountable for that. Coach Morgan is a great leader for our room, he's the best coach for me to be the best I can be in my game."

After Ryan was sacked 42 times in the 2018 season, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn knew they needed to rebuild their offensive line. They went out and signed veteran guards Jamon Brown and James Carpenter in free agency. A month later, they drafted guard Chris Lindstrom with the No. 14 overall pick and traded back into the first round for right tackle Kaleb McGary with the 31st pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. 

Things didn't quite go as planned for McGary and Lindstrom and what the Falcons hoped they would be together on the right side of the offensive line. McGary underwent a cardiac ablation procedure  in early August and missed all of training camp. He was able to return for Atlanta's final preseason game before starting in Week 1 against the Minnesota Vikings. Little did the Falcons know that in that same game, they were about to lose their other first-round pick for majority of the season. 

Lindstrom suffered a foot injury in the Falcons' 28-12 loss to the Vikings and was placed on injured reserve for 10 weeks. When he returned to the lineup, the Falcons went 4-0 to close out the year and finished 7-9 for a second straight year. After their first season in the NFL going any way but how they imagined, both Lindstrom and McGary are ready for a fresh start. Atlanta's offense needs them to be dominant on the right side and that's exactly what they plan to do.

"We expect them both to make really big jumps this year," Morgan said. "They've both come back really just so far ahead of even where they finished last year. The chips on their shoulder have actually gotten bigger. They make each other better. We're really excited to see these two grow."

The Falcons return all five starters along the offensive line with really only one question: Who will win the starting left guard job?

Carpenter, Brown and Wes Schweitzer all spent time starting at that position in 2019. All three suffered injuries at various points last season and were forced out of the starting lineup. Matt Gono also remains on the roster and saw action at left guard in the Falcons' regular-season finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In hopes to solidify this position in between Pro Bowl center Alex Mack and left tackle Jake Matthews, the Falcons drafted Matt Hennessy in the third round of this year's draft. Hennessy was one of the nation's top centers in college football last season. Through the first week of padded practices during training camp, it appears it will come down to Carpenter, Gono or Hennessy. 

Regardless of who wins the job, the Falcons now have depth along the offensive line at almost every position – something they've long needed. Atlanta surrendered 50 sacks in the 2019 season, with 48 of them on Matt Ryan, a career-high for the franchise quarterback.

In addition to the need to improve in pass protection, the Falcons need to get back to running the ball more effectively. After finishing No. 30 in the league in rushing offense, the team went signed Todd Gurley in free agency to help re-energize their run game.

Gurley's health became a headline after a report surfaced in 2019 stating the running back has arthritis in his knee. Questions began to arise after the three-time Pro Bowler saw a decrease in carries in 2019 with 223 carries for 857 yards. In 2018, Gurley rushed for 1,251 yards on 256 carries, down 23 carries from the 2017 season. Gurley remains confident heading into his first year with the Falcons and says he's in the best shape of his life.

Improving in the run game won't just come down to one person, though. It will be a collective group effort and something Quinn's team will emphasize more than ever in the upcoming season. 

"It will take rep after rep over these next three weeks to begin for our running game with one new runner in Todd Gurley," Quinn said. "Incorporating Ito (Smith) back into it and the development of Qadree (Ollison) – all of it goes together. Chris (Morgan) is certainly a proven guy on the offensive line, but it takes all of us. It just takes time and we're really committed to that." 

The Falcons are hoping with more talent and experience in the scheme, all levels of the offense will be better. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter says he'll be a better coach in Year 2 of the offense and he'll work closely with Morgan to improve specific areas. Quinn, Koetter and Morgan have all mentioned having continuity on the offensive line and re-defining their identity in the run game this year will be critical. 

Former Falcons guard Andy Levitre can speak to why that's a recipe for success. Levitre started at left guard for the Falcons for three seasons and when the Falcons had the league's best offense in 2016, Atlanta's starting offensive linemen didn't miss a game. Chris Chester, Ryan Schraeder, Mack, Matthews and Levitre started all 16 games. The Falcons finished No. 5 in rushing offense averaging 120.5 yards per game and Ryan was sacked 37 times, 11 less than he was in the 2019 season.

"To have a season like that is unbelievable," Levitre said. "We all believed in each other and trusted each other. It was seamless for us to go out there. It was some of the most fun football I've ever played."

 
AndyCMo_KC
Photo/Atlanta Falcons

In Atlanta's wide-zone scheme, the way offensive linemen come off the ball is one of the biggest areas of emphasis. The system isn't for everyone and that's why the Falcons acquire players with specific traits at this position. In order to be successful in running this scheme, athleticism is key. That's why the Falcons acquired players like Mack, Lindstrom and Levitre – all guys who can move with ease.

Levitre said if executed the right way, this system can bring out the best in offensive linemen. Why? Because of the way Morgan teaches it and the Falcons are banking on that being the case in this season. 

"It starts with coming off the ball," Levitre said of Atlanta's run scheme. "Getting guys to commit to laying it all out there every play. He preaches that a lot. It felt like more often than not I was in the right position to block guys. It helped me feel like I was more successful. The way he coaches put me in the right position to be successful. I give him a lot of credit for that."

 
 

 

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This quote makes me wonder what the heck they were doing last offseason.  Carp & Brown dont fit the size/athletic profile
 

“In Atlanta's wide-zone scheme, the way offensive linemen come off the ball is one of the biggest areas of emphasis. The system isn't for everyone and that's why the Falcons acquire players with specific traits at this position. In order to be successful in running this scheme, athleticism is key. That's why the Falcons acquired players like Mack, Lindstrom and Levitre – all guys who can move with ease.

 
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Again why in the F*** did we hire Offensive coordinators that HAD NO EXPERIENCE with a Kyle Shanahan like offense?  Now we are going to revisit the past and actually try to replicate the 2016 offense?  I really don't know how the politics or anything works in the NFL.  It makes no sense to me why guys like Sark and Koetter get the job over some one who ACTUALLY coached under Kyle or was with the Falcons in 2016..........

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Yeah it’s head scratcher for me too, like a desperate attempt to push the pile with some misfit heavyweights. No need to push the panic button at this point, & not enough reason to mortify Morgan over it. Let em line up & run it back  (expectedly more cohesively) with that wide zone.

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1 hour ago, FalconsIn2012 said:

This quote makes me wonder what the heck they were doing last offseason.  Carp & Brown dont fit the size/athletic profile
 

“In Atlanta's wide-zone scheme, the way offensive linemen come off the ball is one of the biggest areas of emphasis. The system isn't for everyone and that's why the Falcons acquire players with specific traits at this position. In order to be successful in running this scheme, athleticism is key. That's why the Falcons acquired players like Mack, Lindstrom and Levitre – all guys who can move with ease.

 

Actually this is a misconception.

Both carpenter and Brown are athletic athletic for their size.

And Brown tested to be more of an athlete than Levitre .

His 3 cone  was faster even though he weighed 20lbs more.

Both of them are plenty athletic enough.

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Confusion reigns and the fact they couldn’t get a starting front 5 consistently for the last 2 seasons is also an issue.

No identity poor execution because of thee above all adds to the issue we’ve had.

For me if we are going to be pass happy don’t leave Ryan in the same place and don’t expect ******** rookies to hold up for 4-5 seconds under pressure it’s a recipe for disaster and that’s what we’ve seen.

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2 hours ago, falconsd56 said:

Actually this is a misconception.

Both carpenter and Brown are athletic athletic for their size.

And Brown tested to be more of an athlete than Levitre .

His 3 cone  was faster even though he weighed 20lbs more.

Both of them are plenty athletic enough.

They may be athletic for their size, but at 340 lbs & 330 lbs they simply are not ideal if the goal is to exploit the outside D gap which is traditional outside zone.  
 

Ive always felt both Carp/Brown were Koetter guys because his preference is inside zone or power man.  What we ultimately saw a lot of last year was mid zone...the aim of mid zone (Rams are heavy mid zone team) is the edge of the B gap to the C gap play side.

Once Wes took over at LG we  once again had the requisite athleticism to run wide and get to the D gap.

 

 
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7 hours ago, Speezy said:

Yeah it’s head scratcher for me too, like a desperate attempt to push the pile with some misfit heavyweights. No need to push the panic button at this point, & not enough reason to mortify Morgan over it. Let em line up & run it back  (expectedly more cohesively) with that wide zone.

Falcons did the same thing in Mike Smith's 2nd to last year on the defensive front - got tired of being called soft - so they go get Samoan NT Paul Soliai from Dolphins and Tyson Jackson from Chiefs in free agency to get bigger and more physical - but neither fit the scheme.   Plus neither were great players.

Quinn/Dimitroff did the same w/ Carp and Brown signings - terrible scheme fits but we will be "more physical" - <insert eye roll here>.      

Planet Autism: square pegs don't fit into round holes | The Art of ...

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10 hours ago, falconsd56 said:

Actually this is a misconception.

Both carpenter and Brown are athletic athletic for their size.

And Brown tested to be more of an athlete than Levitre .

His 3 cone  was faster even though he weighed 20lbs more.

Both of them are plenty athletic enough.

OK.  I do not know enough about this to comment.  But, my question is why have Carpenter and Brown been ineffective?

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Regarding Chris Morgan, I will believe he is a good coach when he shows the results of good coaching.  At this point, I have seen a lot of subpar OLs on his watch.  Now, maybe some of those poor OLs resulted from personnel selection.  Maybe some of it resulted from wrong scheme applied to good players.  Maybe it was Matt Ryan.  Maybe it was me.  That is enough maybes and that is way too much subpar performance.  Chris Morgan, show me you can field a competitive OL.  I am not asking for great, just competitive.  Just for this season.  Let's see if you can do that.  If not, I do not want to hear more hype, more excuses, and I do not want you to get more chances.  Get it done or get out.

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12 hours ago, FalconsIn2012 said:

 

In addition to the need to improve in pass protection, the Falcons need to get back to running the ball more effectively. After finishing No. 30 in the league in rushing offense, the team went signed Todd Gurley in free agency to help re-energize their run game.

 

Improving in the run game won't just come down to one person, though. It will be a collective group effort and something Quinn's team will emphasize more than ever in the upcoming season. 

"It will take rep after rep over these next three weeks to begin for our running game with one new runner in Todd Gurley," Quinn said. "Incorporating Ito (Smith) back into it and the development of Qadree (Ollison) – all of it goes together. Chris (Morgan) is certainly a proven guy on the offensive line, but it takes all of us. It just takes time and we're really committed to that." 

Quinn, Koetter and Morgan have all mentioned having continuity on the offensive line and re-defining their identity in the run game this year will be critical. 

 

 
AndyCMo_KC
Photo/Atlanta Falcons

In Atlanta's wide-zone scheme, the way offensive linemen come off the ball is one of the biggest areas of emphasis. 

 

 

It wasn’t always the OL fault as Coach Paul pointed out.

 

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11 minutes ago, NaGaBoy said:

OK.  I do not know enough about this to comment.  But, my question is why have Carpenter and Brown been ineffective?

Well from my uneducated view.

For Carp.....is was mostly injuries. He was hurt alot and he tried to play through alot of it.

I remember when I went to the game when they came here to Arizona....he was constantly doing drills that looked like he was working out an inury.

 

For Brown.....it looked more mental ..he seemed like he was slow to to recognize and react in some instances. He had some good games (he was very good vs the saints the first go around) but he was not very consistent.

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Just now, falconsd56 said:

Well from my uneducated view.

For Carp.....is was mostly injuries. He was hurt alot and he tried to play through alot of it.

I remember when I went to the game when they came here to Arizona....he was constantly doing drills that looked like he was working out an inury.

 

For Brown.....it looked more mental ..he seemed like he was slow to to recognize and react in some instances. He had some good games (he was very good vs the saints the first go around) but he was not very consistent.

Thanks.  That makes sense.  I do remember Carpenter being nicked up but never knew why Brown never made an impact.

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3 hours ago, NaGaBoy said:

OK.  I do not know enough about this to comment.  But, my question is why have Carpenter and Brown been ineffective?

 

3 hours ago, falconsd56 said:

Well from my uneducated view.

For Carp.....is was mostly injuries. He was hurt alot and he tried to play through alot of it.

I remember when I went to the game when they came here to Arizona....he was constantly doing drills that looked like he was working out an inury.

 

For Brown.....it looked more mental ..he seemed like he was slow to to recognize and react in some instances. He had some good games (he was very good vs the saints the first go around) but he was not very consistent.

Well....They’ve both been pretty much meh-to-minus players their entire careers, so I for one was not surprised both sucked.

 

6 hours ago, g-dawg said:

Falcons did the same thing in Mike Smith's 2nd to last year on the defensive front - got tired of being called soft - so they go get Samoan NT Paul Soliai from Dolphins and Tyson Jackson from Chiefs in free agency to get bigger and more physical - but neither fit the scheme.   Plus neither were great players.

Quinn/Dimitroff did the same w/ Carp and Brown signings - terrible scheme fits but we will be "more physical" - <insert eye roll here>.      

Planet Autism: square pegs don't fit into round holes | The Art of ...


This.

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2 hours ago, Vandy said:

 

Well....They’ve both been pretty much meh-to-minus players their entire careers, so I for one was not surprised both sucked.

 


This.

Could have had one Rodger Saffold and completely solved the LG spot with a proven stud. Could have had Quinton Spain, a dog of an OG who was with Mularkey in TEN. But nope. Let's go get mid Carpenter and Brown and hope they are better than they've ever been somehow. 

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3 hours ago, Vandy said:

 

Well....They’ve both been pretty much meh-to-minus players their entire careers, so I for one was not surprised both sucked.

 


This.

btw Vandy - I am still around - just no time to breathe w/ this Mortgage Boom right now.    Off-the-chain crazy - working nights, weekends, etc.

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17 hours ago, itsryanwonder said:

Again why in the F*** did we hire Offensive coordinators that HAD NO EXPERIENCE with a Kyle Shanahan like offense?  Now we are going to revisit the past and actually try to replicate the 2016 offense?  I really don't know how the politics or anything works in the NFL.  It makes no sense to me why guys like Sark and Koetter get the job over some one who ACTUALLY coached under Kyle or was with the Falcons in 2016..........

It's an enigma, cloaked in mystery, shrouded in Quinn... 😫

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8 hours ago, JOEinPHX said:

Never mind whatever controversy exists here.  My question is, can you ban a poster for futzing around with the title font that way?

I came in for that exact reason. I wanna know who does this "yahoo" think he is!!?? 

Comin on here wit some double lined, 1910, Harold Lloyd, pre "talkie" font at that!!. Only thing missin is the organ music and dark eye makeup!! Take yo *** back to TCM!!

UNACCEPTABLE!!

Edited by ADAMSVILLE GYM
I thought Nosferatu was playing.
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2 hours ago, vel said:

Could have had one Rodger Saffold and completely solved the LG spot with a proven stud. Could have had Quinton Spain, a dog of an OG who was with Mularkey in TEN. But nope. Let's go get mid Carpenter and Brown and hope they are better than they've ever been somehow. 

I wanted Spain too but I’m sure his injury history hurt his value or maybe he didn’t want to come here. 

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31 minutes ago, NWFALCON said:

I wanted Spain too but I’m sure his injury history hurt his value or maybe he didn’t want to come here. 

Well brown and Carpenter were brought in to finish off the left overs on the buffet line .  Can't waste the food at flowery branch

Edited by itsryanwonder
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