Obviously, the nasty positions of the trenches are combat driven. You can’t be a good lineman without the ability to hit someone. A lot of times attention goes to the safety that makes a great hit or a running back making a knock out block, but the lineman usually deliver blocks and blows like that on every single play. Hell, it’s their job. In fact, that’s probably 90% of any lineman’s workload: Hitting people.
It’s easier to see how accurate a quarterback can be, how well a receiver can catch, how much coverage a defensive back can lock up, and how well a running back can run routs without pads, but linemen don’t get that luxury. We can all go watch those mini camp practices with no pads and see the team look like they are doing well, but the jury is still out for possibly the most questionable players on the team.
A few things the Falcons absolutely need to do is bolster the pass rush. They absolutely need to fix the run defense. They need to keep Matt Ryan protected and they need to be able to run the ball. ZERO of those things can be determined without pads. Osi Umenyiora looks great and healthy out there. He even talks with confidence about how good Malliciah Goodman and Jonathan Massaquoi are progressing. I actually think Goodman will prove to be a great steal all they way in the fourth round of the draft as a solid contributor and maybe even starting capable from day one. Lamar Holmes and Peter Konz are huge and powerful. Steven Jackson may have the body of a Greek god, but we have no idea if he can make those quick cuts and break tackles like he has done his entire career, we don’t know if Osi is still on top of his game, Holmes and Konz are still unproven, and we don’t know if whatever scheme Mike Nolan has put in to help stop the run game is in any way effective until we can see the tackles and linebackers hit.
The Falcons look great so far, but there is still so much uncertainty that can’t be viewed or scouted until they strap up and start collisions. July 25th could not get here fast enough.