There has been a great deal of talk in the media ever since last season about how the Atlanta Falcons are in prime position to make another run at the NFC South title and even the Super Bowl. Things aren’t always as the pundits would have you believe though. There is one glaring weakness that is being ignored. Its a weakness that could make them very vulnerable to every one of there opponents and has the potential to sink their season.
While LT Sam Baker and LG Justin Blalock are still in the picture, the rest of Atlanta’s offensive line is in a state of upheaval. With the retirement of C Todd McClure and RT Tyson Clabo making the move to Miami, they are facing at least two new starters along the line. Throw in the likelihood that RG Garrett Reynolds will be facing significant competition, and the Falcons could be looking at the entire right side of their offensive line being young, new and largely inexperienced. The rumored favorites for each of these positions are Peter Konz at center, Mike Johnson at right guard and Lamar Holmes at right tackle. The three of them combined have a total of 11 starts. If these men end up as starters, there will be a feeding frenzy in the Atlanta backfield all season long.
Matt Ryan is a right-handed quarterback, which means Baker and Blalock will be watching his back. Instead of going against the two remaining established linemen in an attempt to get a sack, defenses should focus their force on the right side of the line. While it will be harder to get a sack since Ryan will obviously see defenders coming, it will also cause him to rush his delivery. With the defensive pressure coming directly at him in his face, it increases the chances of him making a mistake and throwing an interception or spending half of his time on the field running for his life. In addition, these three new faces along the line would have minimal experience holding off NFL defenders in the run game. Defenses with a strong front seven would have an ideal opportunity to wreak havoc on the run game including new acquisition Steven Jackson.
The Falcons have tried to put on a show of force this off-season by bringing in names like Jackson and Osi Umenyiora in an effort to impress and intimidate. Once the opening kickoff comes though all the positive press in the world won’t be able to hide the fact that their offensive line has taken a big step backwards from last season.