The Falcons defense will be better. You are seeing it in preseason. The low budget free agents; Reed, Clayborn & Durant are already paying dividends, you see the crazy speed off the edge by Vic Beasley. You see Paul Worrilow making tackles for loss! Secondary has issues, but still not worried about the defense.
But what you are also seeing through three preseason games is that this team can’t run block.
What Falcons fans witnessed Saturday night in Miami was disturbing. A wake up call to just how far this team is from securing the right personnel for the zone blocking scheme.
Offensive line issues killed the Falcons in 2013. Last year with the addition of Jon Asamoah at guard and rookie first round draft pick Jake Mathews at left tackle most Falcons fans felt the line would hold up… that was until we were decimated by a plague of injuries that was beyond comprehension.
It got so bad in the Vikings game last year Falcons tight end Levine Toilolo wound up playing tackle. Joe Hawley, Justin Blalock, LaMar Holmes all went down, and so did Matt Ryan’s pass protection. Steven Jackson couldn’t run down hill if ya paid him last year, and even when the line became Swiss cheese Smitty & Koetter stubbornly gave carries to 39 instead of Devonta Freeman.
But that was last year. This season we change it up with the zone blocking scheme.
Sam Baker was cut, Justin Blalock was also let go and later retired and players Kyle Shanahan was familiar with from his Redskins days were brought in.
Jon Asamoah is apparently not a good fit and was demoted to the second team. In camp it looked like a struggle to find the 5 linemen that would make this work for Freeman and rookie burner Tevin Coleman.
Because without a legitimate running game this Falcon offense is dead in the water.
We had pointed to the Falcons 3rd preseason game against Miami as a true test for just how well Kyle Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme had progressed. And it was a fail.
1.) Can James Stone cross train to left guard? James Stone was a pleasant surprise last season. As an undrafted free agent from UT he filled in best he could for Joe Hawley. But Stone nearly got Matt Ryan killed Saturday night. He was in the Falcons backfield so much you thought Stone was a fullback. A fullback being pushed backwards mind you into Tevin Coleman. If he cant then it’s Mike Person. 32 year old Chris Chester supplanted Asamoah at right guard who just doesn’t have the agility for this scheme, why else would a guy with such a big contract be on the bench?
2.) Is Mike Person any better? Person was a 7th round draft pick who has played on 5 teams in 5 years. This is the next man up. There is no pro bowl guard to be picked up on the waiver wire next week. Person may be asked to fill in for Joe Hawley at Center.
3.) Is Joe Hawley healthy and big enough to play center in this scheme? No one questions his work ethic and toughness. But his knee is still giving him a ton of pain after MCL/ACL surgery last year. Dan Quinn intimated Mike Person may actually be a better fit coming off the ball in this offense.
4.) Will Jake Mathews stay healthy? Most Falcons fans expect the 6th over all pick in the 2014 draft to become a perennial pro bowler. He missed Monday’s practice with a back issue. This is the best player on our offensive line. Potential back up
for Thursday Night’s game vs the Ravens would be Tyler Polumbus. In the Jets game it looked like he was actually wearing roller skates out there.
5.) Will the Falcons sign former number one pick Jake Long? Long was brought in for a look earlier this preseason and was not signed. Both the Giants and Broncos kicked the tires on Long and wouldn’t pull the trigger over injury concerns. I guess Ryan Schrader is locked in at right tackle unless there would be more musical chairs to guard if Long was signed.
This is not alarmist sports talk rhetoric. We have a major problem with this line. Unless you were watching a different game than I was Saturday night.