Throughout the season, Atlanta has allowed opposing defenses to absolutely terrorize Quarterback Matt Ryan. This has led to the constant “Ouch”, along with frequent gasps and grimaces. 2014 has not been the best experience of your most important player, who signed a 5 year, $103.75 millllion extension just months ago. Looking at this off-season, there are a few things the front office could do to fix the line, and keep our heart rates at the normal level. Here are 3 things Atlanta must do to try and keep Matt upright for 2014 and beyond…
1. Sign LT Branden Albert
Branden Albert is currently in a contract year and should command a pretty penny if he hits the open market. Albert has the ability to not only pass block at an elite level, but also lead the way for top notch running backs (as he has done so for Jamaal Charles since 2008). Atlanta is expected to have around 18 million in cap space at the beginning of the off-season, but I would bet that number is greatly increased after a few cuts/restructured contracts. The revolving doors that are the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive tackle positions CANNOT be fielded in 2014.
2. Draft OG Cyril Richardson or David Yankey in the 2nd Round of the NFL Draft
As I stated in my mock draft last week, Atlanta has not found an answer for right guard since Harvey Dahl. Both of the 2 gurads above are at the top of their position, and can solidify the void in the middle of the line. Richardson (6’5″, 340 lbs) is a mammoth of a man who gets a good burst of the snap. Yankey (6’5″, 313 lbs) is an athletic lineman who can run a sub 5.00 40 yard dash, which is pretty impressive for a lineman. They’re both very different in terms of size, but Atlanta really couldn’t go wrong with either one.
3. Let Baker/Holmes/Schrader battle for the other Tackle spot
A healthy Baker is a solid Left Tackle in the National Football League, but that’s the thing; he’s never healthy. If it weren’t for him being injury prone, Atlanta would be pretty straight here.
At the beginning of the season, Holmes was absolutely horrid. Since then, he has made strides in his pass blocking and has progressively allowed fewer hurries each week.
Schrader is a UDFA rookie who has played fairly well after seeing some playing time in the last few weeks. He allowed a crucial sack that led to a fumble and recovery by the Packers, but hey… rookies make mistakes.
This is what I believe to be the quickest possible fix Atlanta has to make this offensive line one of the better ones in the NFL. It has only taken a handful of years for the Falcons’ front office to realize that the game in won in the trenches. Hopefully they identify the problem, and address it this off-season. Otherwise, we’ll be in for another long year in 2014.