Pro Football Talk recently ran through the preseason power rankings, and the Atlanta Falcons were ranked No. 12. I don’t think that’s too far off given the massive talent level in the NFC, and the question marks at prominent spots on the Falcons roster.
The strengths of this team are obvious: a ‘sharp, polished quarterback’, tremendous skill position players, a great cornerback unit. There are other units that are strong, but those three units are very strong and make up the backbone or core of the team as a whole. What are the weaknesses that PFT found? The answer will not be any surprise to people to are regulars at this site.
Offensive line. In the words of PFT writer Darin Gantt, the Falcons o-line “for lack of a better word, is just a mess.”
Yikes. That’s scary that people are identifying that as the weakness of this team, but it’s probably right. And its particularly scary when you read one quote that they say about Matt Ryan:
"If they could protect him a little better, he’d probably get even better."
I couldn’t agree more. He absolutely would. Not only Ryan, his receivers, and the passing game would be better, but it would add life and productivity to Michael Turner’s career, and boost the running game as a whole. That can only be a positive thing.
But back to the offensive line directly. The two positions in question are Left Tackle, and Right Guard. Gantt says that Peter Konz is supposed to be the Center of the future, but I disagree. I think the Falcons want him to be the Right Guard of the future, and allow Joe Hawley to be the future at Center. Gantt is right, however, when he says there is a chance that Konz may not even win a starting job in 2012. I think that is a very dire situation indeed, because the players that we had playing RG last year weren’t very good, and most of them are competing for the same position this season.
LT is the same situation I keep harping on. Sam Baker is supposedly healthy, and a healthy Baker is infinitely better than an injured Baker. He’s still no world-beater, but he’s serviceable. But this quote from Gantt stands out:
"If Sam Baker can play again in a contract year, and the line settles itself, it’s the kind of team you can see making a run. But if the pieces don’t fall into place on both lines, the Falcons could again the watching someone else make the postseason push."
Bingo. The Falcons have to protect Matt Ryan, especially from the blindside, where a LT is much more difficult to acquire than a RG. But aside from o-line, the defensive line must come together and generate a pass-rush in a hurry. If not, the Falcons are in trouble. It really proves how much importance is still placed on playing football in the trenches. Its exactly where the Falcons need to get tougher.