The big talk in Flowery Branch coming out of the 2011 season, and all the way into the 2012 free agent signings and draft, was that the Atlanta Falcons had to upgrade on offensive line, in particular at left tackle and right guard. It was the Achilles Heel of the 2011 season in so many ways, and there was everything but a gold-stamped guarantee given from the team that the problem would be addressed.
So here the Falcons sit after three preseason games, for all practical purposes, looking just about the same in not only performance but in personnel on the O-line as they did last season.
I’m sorry, did I miss the part where Sam Baker suddenly learned how to pass protect and stay healthy? Did guard/tackle Garrett Reynolds suddenly get blessed with Juggernaut‘s mutant abilities? (For you non-comic book fans, he’s one of the X-Men)
No, it’s same story-different chapter from what I’ve seen. The right side of the line still has absolutely no push when it comes to moving back defensive linemen on a running play, and the left tackle position is still a huge crevasse for defensive ends to slip through.
The Falcons two draft picks on offensive line – C/G Peter Konz and OT Lamar Holmes – have been notoriously absent. Konz hasn’t been bad, but he certainly hasn’t lived up to the expectations of someone who was slated to come in and make a huge difference from the opening gun. Holmes, when not injured, has had issues with his footwork, and in grasping the blocking schemes and assignments.
The fact is that with the season ending injury to OT Will Svitek, the Atlanta Falcons offensive line is just one more injury away from being a swinging gate for defensive linemen to push open at will.
What if the Falcons lose center Todd McClure, who’s body may not make it through another 16 game season, or what if RT Tyson Clabo were to go down? What has been a makeshift line would then turn into a scramble just to find enough warm bodies to throw out there.
There simply hasn’t been any signs to show that this offensive line can be fixed. Nobody is really stepping up, and as each games has progressed, that unit has become more and more painful to watch.
Atlanta missed some opportunities in the free agent market to land some big name, big time, big bodied veteran NFL offensive linemen – and that may cost them dearly.