2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Falcons line still huge question mark after loss

By PAUL NEWBERRY - AP Sports Writer
    2013-09-09 17:58

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) - The Atlanta Falcons have some of the most dynamic offensive players in the league.

Matt Ryan. Julio Jones. Roddy White. Tony Gonzalez. Steven Jackson.

It may not matter if they don't get better blocking up front.

Already a giant question mark coming into the season, the offensive linemen did nothing to alleviate those concerns in a 23-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 1.

Coach Mike Smith tried to downplay the line's performance on Monday, saying it falls on the entire offense to make sure Ryan has enough time to throw.

``It wasn't just the offensive line,'' Smith insisted.

But the guys in the trenches looked horribly overmatched against a Saint defense that, while revamped and playing a different scheme, still has many of the same players who produced some of the worst numbers in NFL history a year ago.

Ryan was sacked three times, hit six other times and had everything from an intentional grounding penalty to a throw-away on third-and-goal.

This might be dismissed as an anomaly if not for the Falcons having only two starters in the same positions they played a year ago.

Lamar Holmes, a third-round pick in 2012, has been forced into a starting role at right tackle after Tyson Clabo was cut in a salary-cap move, and projected replacement Mike Johnson went down in training camp with season-ending injury. Garrett Reynolds, who has started only 14 games in five seasons, is the new right guard. Peter Konz, who started at guard last season, shifted to center after the retirement of Todd McClure.

Left tackle Sam Baker and left guard Justin Blalock are the lone holdovers from last season's starting unit. Baker is the only first-round pick in the bunch.

``We don't want Matt to be under any pressure,'' Konz said. ``We don't want anyone touching Matt, much less sacking him.''

Ryan completed 25 of 38 passes for 304 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but there were far too many times when he had to throw with defenders in his face or couldn't throw at all. The Falcons were so desperate to give Ryan better protection, they actually sent in backup lineman Joe Hawley as an extra blocker on a few plays - a formation normally used in short-yardage running situations, not when they're planning to throw.

On Atlanta's final drive, when the team faced fourth-and goal at the Saints 3 with less than a minute remaining, Ryan had to throw quicker than he wanted and was picked off by Roman Harper in the end zone. New Orleans brought the pressure with only three rushers, dropping the other eight players into coverage.

``I want our offensive line to be so good they're confident we can block who we need to block, so we have a chance to use all our weapons,'' Konz said.

The Falcons will face an even tougher test Sunday when they host St. Louis in the home opener. Last season, the Rams had 52 sacks, tied for the NFL lead with Denver. They're off to another hot start, recording four sacks in a 27-24 win over Arizona. Robert Quinn had three of those takedowns and is surely licking his chops at the chance to go against Atlanta's shaky line.

While Smith acknowledged there's always competition for the starting spots - and he's held open auditions in the past - the Falcons don't have a whole lot of options.

Jeremy Trueblood is the most prominent name among the backups, but he signed with the Falcons just a week ago and has had only a couple of full practices with his new team. He wasn't even active against the Saints. The only other linemen to play in New Orleans were Hawley, a fourth-year player who hasn't been able to hold a starting job, and undrafted rookie Ryan Schraeder from Division II Valdosta State.

``I'm absolutely confident we've got right guys,'' Smith insisted. ``I think we will see a large improvement from Week 1 to Week 2 in terms of not only the offensive line, but the entire football team. The biggest jump you have during the season in always from Week 1 to Week 2. We're playing a lot of younger guys who have not played much. This was a great learning experience for them. Unfortunately, we didn't get the outcome in the ballgame that we wanted.''

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Paul RichardsonMar 26 12:43a

Seattle Seahawks WR Paul Richardson (knee) might not be ready for the start of the season, head coach Pete Carroll indicated Wednesday, March 25. Carroll did say Richardson's rehab [ More ]

Blake BortlesMar 25 08:43p

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles received an endorsement from head coach Gus Bradley Tuesday, March 24. Speaking at the AFC Coaches Breakfast at the NFL Annual Meetings Tuesday, Bradley [ More ]

Travis KelceMar 25 06:03p

Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce played at roughly 250 pounds in 2014, but head coach Andy Reid wants Kelce to report bigger in 2015, and Reid thinks Kelce [ More ]

Drew BreesMar 25 05:03p

Oregon QB Marcus Mariota isn't an option for the New Orleans Saints in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, according to head coach Sean Payton. Payton said [ More ]

Adrian PetersonMar 25 04:33p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is wanted back in Minnesota, but the question is if Peterson wants to come back. Head coach Mike Zimmer said he doesn't believe Peterson [ More ]

Ifeanyi MomahMar 25 03:13p

Free-agent TE Ifeanyi Momah (Lions) signed a one-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals Wednesday, March 25. Financial terms were undisclosed.

Terence NewmanMar 25 01:53p

Free-agent CB Terence Newman (Bengals) agreed to a one-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings Wednesday, March 25, according to a source. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Jordy NelsonMar 25 12:23p

Green Bay Packers WR Jordy Nelson (hip) underwent hip surgery this offseason and is expected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks.

Victor CruzMar 25 11:53a

New York Giants WR Victor Cruz (knee) could miss the start of the 2015 season with a torn patellar tendon in his knee, according to head coach Tom Coughlin. [ More ]

Josh HillMar 25 11:03a

New Orleans Saints TE Josh Hill is expected to have a bigger role in the offense in 2015. Head coach Sean Payton has mentioned him quite a bit since [ More ]

Adrian PetersonMar 25 10:53a

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is disgruntled and reportedly wants out of Minnesota, but head coach Mike Zimmer said the team has no plans to trade him.

Cody LatimerMar 24 09:33p

The Denver Broncos plan to use WR Cody Latimer as the third receiver behind WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in 2015. 'I think it's time for him to [ More ]

Casey MatthewsMar 24 06:32p

Free-agent LB Casey Matthews (Eagles) agreed to terms with the Minnesota Vikings Tuesday, March 24. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

R. Griffin IIIMar 24 04:42p

Washington Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan said that the team will go with the best player available in the 2015 NFL Draft with the No. 5 overall pick, which [ More ]

Michael CrabtreeMar 24 03:02p

Free-agent WR Michael Crabtree (49ers) is having a hard time being signed this offseason, reportedly due to concerns regarding lower-leg injuries and a negative perception about his attitude.

Ray McDonaldMar 24 02:02p

Free-agent DE Ray McDonald (49ers) is signing an undisclosed deal with the Chicago Bears Tuesday, March 24.

Stephen BowenMar 24 01:32p

Free-agent DE Stephen Bowen (Redskins) is signing an undisclosed deal with the New York Jets Tuesday, March 24.

Geno SmithMar 24 01:22p

New York Jets QB Geno Smith will be the starting quarterback ahead of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick entering training camp this summer, according to new head coach Todd Bowles. 'You [ More ]

Zach MettenbergerMar 24 01:12p

Oregon QB Marcus Mariota is a realistic option for the Tennessee Titans with the second overall selection in this year's NFL Draft, and head coach Ken Whisenhunt is impressed [ More ]

Jarvis JenkinsMar 24 10:42a

Free-agent DE Jarvis Jenkins (Redskins) agreed with the Chicago Bears Tuesday, March 24, on a one-year deal.

Johnny ManzielMar 24 08:52a

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel is expected back with the team for offseason workouts April 20 after completing more than two months of treatment.

Adrian PetersonMar 23 07:52p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson's agent, Ben Dogra, said Monday, March 23, that he doesn't think 'it's in Adrian's best interest to play in Minnesota' in 2015 and beyond. [ More ]

Adrian PetersonMar 23 06:02p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is expected to be part of the Vikings next season, according to general manager Rick Spielman. 'Adrian's a member of our football team,' Spielman [ More ]

Drew BreesMar 23 01:22p

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees will not be traded, according to general manager Mickey Loomis. Recent speculation said that Brees may be on the trade block after his [ More ]

Adrian PetersonMar 23 12:52p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson's preference is to play elsewhere than with the Vikings in 2015, according to a league source. He is under contract through the 2017 season [ More ]

Adrian PetersonMar 22 08:32p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson's future remains unclear, but head coach Mike Zimmer recently said that the Vikings are 'excited' to have him back. Zimmer had previously said that [ More ]

James HarrisonMar 22 12:42p

Free-agent LB James Harrison (Steelers) signed a two-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, March 22. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Branden OliverMar 21 03:52p

San Diego Chargers RB Branden Oliver is penciled in as the starting running back at this point.

EJ ManuelMar 21 12:52a

Buffalo Bills QB EJ Manuel is not locked in as the starting quarterback. Head coach Rex Ryan said Friday, March 20, that the quarterback competition will be open. 'It's [ More ]

Kevin VickersonMar 20 05:52p

Free-agent DT Kevin Vickerson (Chiefs) agreed to terms on an undisclosed deal with the New York Jets Friday, March 20.

Matt MooreMar 20 04:32p

Free-agent QB Matt Moore (Dolphins) re-signed with the Miami Dolphins Friday, March 20. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Adrian PetersonMar 20 02:42p

Updating an ongoing story, Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is clearly wanted back by the organization, and general manager Rick Spielman once again stressed that they will make every [ More ]

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group