We continue our “Falcons 50” countdown with a look at the Atlanta Falcons’ top five offensive weapons. Falcons football is just 45 days away. You can follow along with the full countdown here.
Whether many realize it or not, the importance of the 2016 season may actually be as high as it was when the Falcons entered the 2013 season. Following the NFC Championship collapse against the 49ers during the previous postseason, the Falcons displayed a roster that wasn’t necessarily idealistic in terms of talent.
Comparing the current roster with that one, a legitimate claim can be made that the 2016 version of the Atlanta Falcons is significantly better in terms of just pure talent.
So as we focus on the upcoming 2016 season, the task presented before me is to come up with five of the best offensive weapons for the Falcons. I decided to embark on the listing a little unconventionally. My choice as the fifth biggest offensive weapon for Atlanta is a selection that many may actually disagree with but essentially, this pick will go a long way towards any type of offensive success the team encounters.
Falcons top offensive weapon No. 5: Offensive line
The bookend tackles have been in place for a couple of seasons now but prior to last season the team inserted Levitre, backup lineman Mike Person, and Chester. The team experimented with different combinations during training camp and the preseason and once the season started, the combination of Matthews, Levitre, Person, Chester and Schraeder were the chosen ones and produced favorable results.
Quarterback Matt Ryan was only sacked 30 times (eighth best in NFL) and the running game made a slight improvement from 24th in 2014 to 19th last season. With the optimistic mindset that I possess, progress is progress. So the offensive line made visible contributions to an improvement in the running game while also putting into effect the zone-blocking scheme.
I know. Some are still asking why do I list a set of players who don’t even touch the football as an offensive weapon.
It’s simple. In order to operate the zone-blocking scheme, the offensive line needs specific type of linemen. Mainly those who have an ability to be agile in space.
Plus, the free agent signing of Alex Mack this offseason gives Matt Ryan and the Falcons their best option at center since the days of Todd McClure. The Falcons made steady progress with a first time starter in Person as the No. 1 option at center. Mack is a clear, much-needed upgrade and will make the holes that running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman notice, slightly bigger.
The unit as a whole doesn’t require handling the football on many occasions nor do they have plays routinely drawn up for them. Yet, in order for the Falcons to have any offensive success, the offensive line is looked upon to make life easier for the skilled position players.
Regardless if it’s keeping the franchise quarterback upright to complete throw or it’s carrying out their duties in a zone-blocking scheme for Freeman and Coleman, the 2016 Falcons offensive line upholds great importance and the unit is a key offensive weapon.