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Atlanta Falcons: Breaking Down the Offensive Line's Performance in 2013

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Atlanta Falcons: Breaking Down the Offensive Line's Performance in 2013
(Photo By Streeter Lecka)
The Falcons haven't been missing Todd McClure as much as first thought.

The Atlanta Falcons have a reputation for having a horrible offensive line in 2013. And it's not 100 percent unfounded. However, it's a false narrative with how the line has been improving every week. 

The opening group was Sam Baker, Justin Blalock, Peter Konz, Garrett Reynolds and Lamar Holmes. And outside of Baker getting hurt and Jeremy Trueblood being brought in to start at right tackle with him out, the Falcons have kept the same group in there the whole season.

And the group has been improving from week to week. In order to see it keep improving, let's break down how the line has done so far and give it a plan of action for the rest of the season.

 

Pro Football Focus OL Grades
Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle
Overall -24.1 +7.0 -9.8 +3.5 -4.4
Pass Block -18.5 +5.8 -0.5 -0.2 -7.5
Screen Block +1.5 +1.0 0.0 +2.0 +0.5
Run Block -7.7 -1.4 -10.4 +0.1 +2.0
Penalty Grade +0.6 +1.6 +1.1 +1.6 +0.6

Pro Football Focus

Pro Football Focus Grades

While left tackle has been very bad the first three games of the season, the Falcons have finally shored it up somewhat over the past three games. And with both guards performing well, the Falcons just need Konz to step up his game as a run blocker in the middle of the line to an average level.

At right tackle, the combination of Trueblood and Holmes has performed much better than expected, but pass blocking still leaves a bit to be desired. If that can also get to an NFL average level, the Falcons could keep Matt Ryan upright.

As it sits right now, the Falcons offensive line has underperformed in run blocking as a whole on the left side. And it has been horrible at pass blocking at the tackle spots. However, Holmes has been much better in pass blocking the past three games than Baker was at the start of the season.

 

Quarterback Disruptions Breakdown
Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle Totals
QB Disruptions 34 8 9 14 26 91
Sacks 2 1 1 1 2 7
Hits 8 2 1 2 3 16
Hurries 24 5 7 11 21 68

Pro Football Focus

Quarterback Disruption Breakdown

In looking at the total disruptions, the Falcons offensive line has given up way too many with 91 total. However, that number has gone down quite a bit throughout the season.  Throughout the season, the Falcons have improved in the amount of pressure they has allowed on Matt Ryan.

With Holmes improving every week despite which side he plays and the interior of the line just improving every week period, the Falcons are giving Ryan a cleaner pocket. Once the tackles start to play every game like the one they had against the Buccaneers (one pressure allowed from each side), then the offensive line will be back to where it was in 2012.

 

Running Effectiveness Breakdown
Left End Left Tackle Left Guard Inside Left Inside Right Right Guard Right Tackle Outside Right
Carries 6 7 10 25 13 17 17 15
Yards 10 14 21 86 34 62 70 106
YPC 1.67 2.00 2.10 3.44 2.62 3.65 4.12 7.07

Pro Football Focus

Running Effectiveness Breakdown

The right end run stats are a bit skewed because of the 55-yard run by Steven Jackson in the opener. But even then, the line has pushed forward for a 3.65 or more average per carry on the right side of the line and under 3.00 on almost the entire left side of the line.

A switch from the current man blocking-heavy scheme to a zone-blocking scheme could be extremely beneficial for the offense. The Falcons have the quickness on the line, and they definitely have guys up front who would be intelligent enough to make the switch.

But right now, whatever they are trying to do isn't working. Jackson coming back could end up being the spark the running game needs to block better against the run. But with how they've played so far, the only real thing that could improve the run blocking is a scheme switch or Konz getting his act together in the run game.

 

The Best Plan of Action for the Remainder of 2013

/Getty Images

Left and Right Tackle

While Baker has the most experience at the left tackle spot on the team, Holmes has played the best there this season. The Falcons need to let Baker get 100 percent healthy, because Holmes can be at a minimum serviceable for the Falcons until he returns.

If Baker returns to his career-best 2012 form, Holmes can move back to right tackle and learn how to play there effectively. But if he can't, the Falcons should look into having Baker compete with Trueblood on the opposite side of the field.

Trueblood has been effective in the run game for the Falcons at right tackle, but so has Holmes. If the Falcons do get Baker to return to his 2012 form, having Trueblood play the sixth offensive lineman role with Holmes continuing to learn and improve on the job is the best plan of action.

 

/Getty Images

Left Guard, Center and Right Guard

At guard, Blalock and Reynolds have been surprisingly good. Reynolds and Blalock have been just average at run blocking, but their pass protection has been excellent. At center, Konz has been average in pass protection but horrible as a run blocker.

Konz might have still some issues adjusting from the zone-based blocking scheme he played in at Wisconsin. His lack of functional strength has shown up there and would benefit the most from a switch. While the other pair has been effective all around and could play in either scheme.

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The combination of Blalock, Konz and Reynolds has been too effective in pass blocking to bench. The interior three linemen have combined to allow just three sacks, five hits and 23 pressures. Compared to the four sacks, 11 hits and 45 pressures, that's just under half as many total quarterback disruptions.

Despite performing well in pass protection, they need to improve their run blocking, or the Falcons will have a very one-dimensional attack again in 2013. It would severely hinder the Falcons' playoff chances if they can't develop the running game.

And that's something they'll have to do from the inside. If they do decide to change the scheme to a zone-blocking run game, the Falcons could use their more athletic offensive line talent—specifically on the interior of the lineto create that running game needed for a playoff push.

 

All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats (subscription required), ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld.

Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.

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