Commentary

Atlanta's fundamental issue

The Falcons have playmakers on offense, but a leaky line mitigates their impact

Originally Published: December 6, 2011
By Vince Verhei | Football Outsiders
Michael TurnerJoe Nicholson/US PresswireBy maintaining a questionable offensive line, the Falcons leave Michael Turner exposed.

It would be dishonest to say that the Atlanta Falcons made no plays on the ground in their 17-10 loss to the Houston Texans. Michael Turner had a 16-yard run in the second quarter, for example, and Matt Ryan and Jason Snelling each chipped in with 10-yard gains in the third. Otherwise, though, the Falcons averaged only 2.3 yards per carry and didn't pick up a first down via the run.

It's not the only reason the Falcons lost -- Ryan's 26 incomplete passes didn't help -- but it was the latest sign that the offensive line, once the foundation of the Atlanta offense, has been eroding for years.

The year 2007 holds foul memories for Falcons fans. It was a year full of ugly words like "dogfighting" and "Petrino." With such scandalous headlines available, few noticed that Atlanta also had one of football's worst offensive lines. After the season, the new tandem of general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith went about rebuilding their front wall, spending a first-round draft pick on USC tackle Sam Baker and promoting guard Harvey Dahl to the starting lineup. The Falcons matched Baker and Dahl with center Todd McClure, guard Justin Blalock and tackle Tyson Clabo to form a solid unit that led the team to multiple playoff berths.


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