Continually, Falcons fans all across the country hear about how the offensive line is in dire straits or is one of the weaknesses of the team, even now that the team has drafted a pair of top-notch linemen to help restore some talent to an underdeveloped unit.
Joe Hawley and Lamar Holmes will be two of the surprises to many people, including Falcons fans, because of their play during the 2012 season.
Joe Hawley will be competing at center with Todd McClure and Lamar Holmes will be competing at the left tackle spot with "T-Rex" Sam Baker and Will Svitek.
Joe Hawley is a 6'3", 300-pound center who can make all of the line calls and is an excellent pass blocker who has been able to stuff the likes of B.J. Raji in pass protection. Hawley's biggest issues were his run blocking and pile moving.
Hawley's issues will be resolved with the immovable Peter Konz and unbreakable Justin Blalock flanking him.
Now, all he really has to do is beat out the 35-year-old grizzly veteran Todd McClure. But the prediction will be made now, if Blalock-Hawley-Konz is the starting Falcons interior line, the team will allow a lot less pressure than it did in 2011.
The biggest issue on the line in 2011 was the right guard spot allowing nine sacks, seven hits and 16 pressures.
With someone who is a competent blocker at right guard in Konz, Hawley will only improve from the three total pressures he allowed in the four games he played in 2011 at center.
The other big hole was when Sam Baker was in the starting lineup as a pass protector for the past three years. Over the past three years, Baker has been one of the worst pass blockers in the NFL, and his pass blocking has led to the Falcons offense not reaching its full potential.
Sam Baker will be replaced this year.
Despite all the coach-speak about keeping Baker as the starting left tackle, it's very unlikely for the Falcons to keep someone who has been as awful as Baker has been the past three years in the starting lineup.
The Falcons spent their third-round pick on 6'6", 330 pound Lamar Holmes, a giant who can protect against the pass rush. Holmes' specialty is going to be to protect the blindside of the Falcons franchise signal caller.
Holmes also has the size and strength to be one of the top run blockers in the NFL.
The issues that Holmes might have are his technique and footwork. Both in pass blocking and in run blocking, he needs to learn proper ways to gain leverage to control pass rushers or to open lanes.
However, Holmes also has quite a few things going for him. The open competition at the starting left tackle spot will help. The addition of Pat Hill who is a teacher at offensive line coach will help develop the technique of the monstrous Holmes.
Holmes is the dark horse to win the left tackle spot this year, but his attitude alone is something that Hawley and he share. They both have a "never say die" style and will not be denied a spot in the lineup.
Hawley and Holmes both will earn their starting roles and will both play like legitimate pass blockers, and with the new offensive scheme, should be good complements to the current set of top-notch run blockers in Konz, Clabo and Blalock.
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