Does the O-line miss Dahl’s nasty swagger?

Tyson Clabo (right), Harvey Dahl and Todd McClure and Justin Blalock (Sam Baker not pictured). (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

Tyson Clabo (right), Harvey Dahl and Todd McClure and Justin Blalock (Sam Baker not pictured). (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

Everyone is searching for answers about why there’s been a dramatic dropoff in the offensive line’s performance.

We interviewed right tackle Tyson Clabo (he didn’t like the line of questioning), center Todd McClure (fundamentals/techniques), right guard Garrett Reynolds (He’s been trained well. More on fundamentals/techniques), head coach Mike Smith, offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and offensive line coach Paul Boudreau. Left tackle Sam Baker and left guard Justin Blalock have been noticeably absent during the first two of four “open locker room” sessions this week. We’ll see if they show up today and Friday.

It turns out that the line might be missing Harvey Dahl’s meanness and nastiness.

Here’s how the story turned out:

Falcons offensive line coach Paul Boudreau wants his players to start knocking people on their, um, butts.  Brant Sanderlin / bsanderlin@ajc.com

Falcons offensive line coach Paul Boudreau wants his players to start knocking people on their, um, butts. Brant Sanderlin / bsanderlin@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons coach Mike Smith promised a full and detailed inquiry into the play of the offensive line.

The coaching staff, in addition to game-planning for Seattle, held exhaustive meetings this week to put the offensive line under the microscope.

They found some reasons and recognized that the new practice rules, which limit teams to one day a week in pads, are contributing factors to the 13 sacks of quarterback Matt Ryan and the 21 hits he has taken.

Also, somewhere during the offseason, the unit lost its swagger.

Four of the five starters are back, and the only missing player is right guard Harvey Dahl, who was widely considered the meanest and nastiest player in the bunch.

He signed with St. Louis during free agency.

Tackle (75) Garrett Reynolds levels a tackling dummy while running a drill. He will replace Harvey Dahl as the team's starting right guard. Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com

Tackle (75) Garrett Reynolds levels a tackling dummy while running a drill. He will replace Harvey Dahl as the team's starting right guard. Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com

“I think these guys miss Harvey, but we’ve been in the same system for four years and we should be able to go out and whoever is playing, and make it work,” offensive line coach Paul Boudreau said.

But Dahl isn’t coming back and Garrett Reynolds, his replacement, has been solid. There’s more to it than just losing Dahl.

“I told these guys ‘respect everybody you play, but don’t fear anybody,’” Boudreau said. “Maybe right now, we might be respecting people a little too much. … We’ve got to go back to hey, ‘there’s the guy, you take the right steps, put your hand in his chest and you finish.”

That’s how the line played for the past three years under Boudreau and helped the Falcons reach the playoffs in two seasons. Boudreau wants some more of that nastiness, and he and the rest of staff will look at their reserves to see if they need to make any changes.

Joe Hawley, who started two games at center for Todd McClure, can also play guard. Will Svitek, who has been used as a blocking tight end can play tackle.

If the Falcons shuffle the deck along the line, they want to see that “block until you hear the whistle” mentality that Dahl brought to the unit.

ew season, bigger beard. Falcons offensive lineman Sam Baker has let his beard grow out, sporting some additional length on his chin. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

ew season, bigger beard. Falcons offensive lineman Sam Baker has let his beard grow out, sporting some additional length on his chin. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com

“That’s what we did for three years,” Boudreau said. “It didn’t matter who we played. It didn’t matter what they said about us. You knew when you played the Falcons you were going to get hit. We were going to knock your [expletive] on the ground. We were going to get back in the huddle and do it again.

“Maybe we’ve got to get back to that. Maybe we are respecting guys a little too much. We have to get that little confidence back, a little bit of that swagger.”

Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey has been involved in the meetings.

“The one thing that we have not had an issue with is their effort and physical play,” Mularkey said. “I have no problem saying that it wasn’t that. There are things that we need to clean up.”

In defense of the offensive line, the Falcons have been imbalanced, as they’ve thrown the ball 112 times and run it 58. They’ve fallen behind by double-digits in each game.

“The biggest thing that we’ve got to do as an offense is come out of the tunnel fast,” Boudreau said. “You can’t play and be one dimensional. If you’re down by 10 or 20, all of a sudden you’re throwing the ball on every down and that stresses everything in your protections.”

Falcons guards Justin Blalock (left) and Tyson Clabo help Ryan to his feet after a hit against Tampa Bay  (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

Falcons guards Justin Blalock (left) and Tyson Clabo help Ryan to his feet after a hit against Tampa Bay (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

In the first two games of the season, the line did well in run blocking when running back Michael Turner rushed for 100 and 114 yards. However, the problems leaked over into the run blocking last week as Tampa Bay held the Falcons to 30 yards on 15 carries.

On their march to the NFC South title, the Falcons allowed 23 sacks and were a finalist for the John Madden’s most valuable protectors award, which goes to the NFL’s top offensive line.

Right tackle Tyson Clabo seemed perturbed when asked for some rationale for the slippage in play. Reynolds and McClure talked about getting back to basics and using their techniques.

“We want to learn from our mistakes in the past few games, put them behind us and go out and put something good on tape,” McClure said.

Ryan said he might be adding to the problems by holding on to the ball too long when attempting to pass.

“We just need to execute a little better, myself included,” Ryan said. “The ball needs to come out. You can’t keep hanging on to it back there.”

Boudreau has little doubt that the offensive line will get things turned around.

“Here’s the deal. I’ve trusted them for three years, and they’ve got to trust themselves,” Boudreau said. “They have trusted the plays and their techniques. That trust is going to make that play work.”

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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146 comments Add your comment

DC Dirty Bird

September 29th, 2011
5:35 am

Whether its pass blocking or run blocking, the offensive line has lost its cohesiveness. Baker and Clabo have to shore up the outside and let Blaylock and Reynolds move bodies in the inside. It would also help them if our offensive coordinator wasn’t so predictable in his playcalling. The whole league knows why we are better in no huddle.

drew

September 29th, 2011
5:43 am

They’ve certainly lost something. Hard to have and “explosive” offense when your QB is constant harrassed, hurried and sacked all day long. What is it, 13 sacks in 3 games? Ryan will be lucky to last 6 games with this kind of treatment.

JSS

September 29th, 2011
6:19 am

Dahl didn’t have a lick of “swagger.” What he was just a dirty player, late hits, below the line shots at other players legs, and the list goes on…

On a team that had some flexibility or innovation, they would have moved Baker inside by now. They would admit the short comings and rotate the left tackles and get the best out of what they have. But these are the Falcons, just how long did they keep all of low round OL picks who could not make it off the bench around since Smith took over? Baker is position, he just gets whipped! Clabo gets whipped too!

The Real Falcon

September 29th, 2011
6:47 am

What a rhetorical question. Of course. I would trade Clabo for Dahl any day.

The Real Falcon

September 29th, 2011
6:52 am

I am always amazed at those bloggers who have no clue.
Aske the team if they miss Dahl and waht type of player he was.
Ask the teams playing us if they’re glad that he’s not here.
Aske Matt Ryan.
Baker is NOT a guard. He has never played guard. You don’t
move a player just because you think it looks good. This is NOT
the DL. You don’t have tackle rotations. It’s called cohesion and
knowing how to call line assignmnets for specific players.
Was right about Clabo.

NR

September 29th, 2011
6:55 am

Baker needs to worry less about growing his beard and more about growing his game.

Real American

September 29th, 2011
6:59 am

For the love of Moses, DLed…PLEASE stop using the word “swagger”.

Falcon in DC

September 29th, 2011
7:07 am

one word answer …YES

"D" Jected

September 29th, 2011
7:09 am

I think the Falcons should have come up with the $ to resign Dahl. Obviously, he was an important cog in the D Line. No matter what kind of D Line system the Falcons might be running. its not a one size fits all.

Falcon in DC

September 29th, 2011
7:11 am

Just finished reading an article about the late Orlando Brown (Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens). I’ll paraphrase here…….after working on technique it boils down to taking away the will of the man in front of you.

I ask the group……Do the Falcons have any “will takers” on the current O-Line?

"D" Jected

September 29th, 2011
7:14 am

If a player is worried about his “Swagger” he isn’t a team player. Swagger don’t make tackles, catch passes, score TDs, or anything else game worthy.

Falcon in DC

September 29th, 2011
7:21 am

Forget all the politically correct answers about technique, timing, and balance of plays.
Every man on the squad needs to win his assignment the majority of the time. Period.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

September 29th, 2011
7:22 am

Real American — Coach Boudreau used the word “Swagger” to describe what they are missing. Also, those are some great Old Spice commercials.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

September 29th, 2011
7:24 am

Don’t get caught up on the word “Swagger.” If its a probelm for you, substitute “attitude.” That’s what Coach is talking about.

Michael M.

September 29th, 2011
7:28 am

Yes , he was the real leader of that group but they will get better as the week go by .

I usually just read but....

September 29th, 2011
7:28 am

I’m sorry to say this but Dahl should have been the very first OL free agent resigned. Dirty? maybe. I don’t really care, the opposition was afraid of him and what he might do, esp if they made him look bad on a play(rarely). Who’s afraid of any of these guys out there now? Would you call any of them mean and nasty? Well, therein lies the problem. I wish we played like the Raiders of the 70’s and 80’s.

Dean21

September 29th, 2011
7:45 am

Harvey’s new team – St. Louis Rams (0-3)
One lineman missing is not the problem, it’s a combination of everything, i.e. different season w/o mini camps, etc, new schdule, new players & lack of appropiate play calls from coaching staff

mike

September 29th, 2011
7:47 am

Swagger, swagger, swagger, swagger and SWAGGER. Get a life already!!!

SCFalcon

September 29th, 2011
7:54 am

“They found some reasons and recognized that the new practice rules, which limit teams to one day a week in pads, are contributing factors to the 13 sacks of quarterback Matt Ryan and the 21 hits he has taken.”

Seriously? C’mon man, why hasn’t this effected other teams?

YungDawg87

September 29th, 2011
8:00 am

WE SHOULD HAVE SPENT THAT MONEY ON HARVY DAHL, INSTEAD OF RAY EDWARDS.

SeenThisB_Falcon

September 29th, 2011
8:00 am

No excuse to play this bad these guys are professionals that get paid millions of dollars Arthur Blank just paid these guys this summer and this is how you play after getting a Fat Check unacceptable!!!!

eastbound and down

September 29th, 2011
8:02 am

“swagger” has to be one of the most overused words of the new century. I am surprised it isn’t abbreivated as “swag?” purchase a thesaurus.
here is a start, preceded by the definition to help you out.

to conduct oneself in an arrogant or superciliously pompous manner; especially : to walk with an air of overbearing self-confidence
or to praise or express pride in one’s own possessions, qualities, or accomplishments often to excess

Synonyms blow, brag, bull [slang], crow, gasconade, swagger, vapor, vaunt
Related Words bluster, harangue, puff; pride; gush; exult, glory, rejoice; brandish, display, exhibit, expose, flaunt, glorify, parade, show off; magnify, maximize

SeenThisB_Falcon

September 29th, 2011
8:03 am

Offensive line needs the grow some Man Nutts and stop playing like a bunch of TRANSVESTITIES!!!!

Falcons lady

September 29th, 2011
8:03 am

Blah, blah, blah, excuses.

Mike is Back

September 29th, 2011
8:04 am

DLed, I think Dahl nastiness is sorely missed…However, you can expect a guy like Reynolds to have some struggles early on…BUT to see a guy like Baker one of your highest paid OL continue to open up Route 66 to the quarterback has to be a little disheartening.

I like what Coach Boudreau had to say on the matter…I think he is on point. I would like to see a couple of guys on the practice squad get a shot.

SeenThisB_Falcon

September 29th, 2011
8:07 am

Birds win in Seattle no worries this is just a Scrimmage for the O-line to get it together 31-13 Falcons. O-line get ready for Green Bay that is going to be the true test for us RISE UP!!!!

Ed Pilcher

September 29th, 2011
8:14 am

These guys don’t look so f***** good.

SeenThisB_Falcon

September 29th, 2011
8:18 am

Birds will be ok just starting off slow!!!

Michael M.

September 29th, 2011
8:22 am

Falcons have all the Teams focused at beating them because they was 13-3 best record in NFC. So they play them harder to try to get the Win over Atlanta as to say’ Look at me, I beat one of the best Teams .’ Its just a bragging rights thing. Dont Worry, Atlanta will bounce back !

OC/DC Dinosaurs

September 29th, 2011
8:23 am

The coaching staff and all are examining the pebbles instead of the boulders.

falcon fanatic

September 29th, 2011
8:25 am

..Falcons has all these toys and don’t know when to check down….I think the hype around all these “super” play-makers was over emphasized..This is the NFL…Schemes are ran defensively and offensively. true Ryan is in constant pressure but dictate the game from the beginning which allows you to use these toys the way they are hyped. The O line getting blamed but the play-calling needs help..

SeenThisB_Falcon

September 29th, 2011
8:30 am

Not time to panic yet but if we lose to Seattle if……..then something has gone terribly wrong here….

ctfalconsfan

September 29th, 2011
8:34 am

just beat Seattle and let’s reevaluate the situation…

- We can’t be 1-3 hosting GB at the Dome.. That could start a downward death spiral where there would be no recovery!!

Gladiator

September 29th, 2011
8:43 am

I’ve said all along that I place the blame on Tom D. our genius GM. You can’t bust up the O line. Letting Dahl go was a colossal mistake….P,S, Baker wears cement shoes…

Nativebird

September 29th, 2011
8:45 am

Loss of Dahl AND new fat contract for Clabo, the latter CANNOT be discounted, the truth hurts. At the end of the day, to the man, you’ve got to line up and beat the man across from you. These guys have been getting the lunch handed to them, simple as that. Scheme, schmeeem. Tired of hearing coaches defend flat out poor play. Only one schematic instruction is needed from Boudreau; “get your heads out of your A$$e$ and man up”.

Dawglasville

September 29th, 2011
8:45 am

Yeeeeeeeeees. We are like Lambier without Mahorn. Do you think that Dunta would tee off on Hines Ward like that? Hell, no. He knows that Hines would spend the rest of the game hunting him down to give him worse than he got.

Dad of Three

September 29th, 2011
8:46 am

Sam Baker is consistently getting whipped at the point of attack. Trent Cole absolutely abused him 2 weeks ago and this past week wasn’t much better. Are we so thin at Tackle that we are actually considering moving a TE to T in an effort to shore things up? If so, we won’t have to get used to Ryan getting hit so much, because he’ll be on IR. Maybe we should have spent the money to keep Dahl rather than signing a boxer to play DE?

Say It Aint So

September 29th, 2011
8:48 am

I hope after waiting all day Sunday to watch the Birds start at 4pm that I don’t get pi$$ed after a couple of minutes of their 1st possession like last Sunday.

Life Long Bird

September 29th, 2011
8:48 am

The only thing that scares me about Seattle is actually flying to Seattle. It is a long flight and that does not bode well for a team who is starting slow. Hopefully these guys get in and get some rest.

JMF

September 29th, 2011
8:49 am

My concern is not the loses but how we lost. No way should we have allowed Chicago to score (both offense and defense) 30 points. Too many mistakes. We beat Philly because they made more mistakes than we did. Game on the line, 1st and goal on the 5. In the red zone twice, need 7 points to win and we come away with 3 points. About to get the ball back (maybe) with with less than 2 minutes to play. TOO MANY MENTAL MISTAKES.

Bear

September 29th, 2011
8:49 am

I say screw the new pad rule. Take an extra day with them on and practice hitting. What we gonna get fined, so what the team will make that back on beer sales alone.
This team is about to get hot and go on a roll. Easy win this week then payback against the cheeseheads. I belive in this team. Lets go FALCONS!

Nik

September 29th, 2011
8:49 am

It’s too bad tackling dummies aren’t playing in the NFC. Sam Baker is a total flop. He’s going to get Ryan landed on IR.

Whopper Dawg

September 29th, 2011
8:52 am

If Reynolds has been solid, then the whole OLine has been solid.

Give me a break

September 29th, 2011
8:52 am

First of all the offensive line was not that good last year. Turner made the offensive line
and Ryan look better. Turner is not having as good a year. So, the offensive line and Ryan
are showing who thy really are.

Look it up whenever Turner gets 100 yards or more the Falcons usually win. When he doesn’t get 100 yards the Falcons lose.

The Falcons needed an offensive line

Cal

September 29th, 2011
8:55 am

Let’s be honest Sam Baker was a reach when we drafted him and kind of injury prone. He was on his last leg sort of speak last year and the power that be failed to address the problem through the draft or free agency. Plus let also be honest in our observation of the line, Mr. Clabo since getting that big contract has done nothing to live up to it. The pass and run attack goes as the line goes. This brings up to the second chapter which starts off like this IF YOUR LINE CAN’T STOP THE PASS RUSH IMPLEMENT SOME SCREEN AND DRAW PLAYS. Why are we not using J Rodgers in screens if turner is not a great catcher out the back field? It’s pretty obvious now that the O Coordinator is has not evolved with the game and the Head coach dedication to be loyal to his coordinators is something Mr. Blank might want to take a look at. Is the team and the Falcon Nation the main focus or Coach Smith moral feelings? The Falcons are a product for the people, by the people because we pay for the seats and jersey.
Oh yeah this is not over reacting or jumping the gun, we lost two NFC games that are going to bite us in the behind later. So ask yourself do you see 9 wins left on our scheduled make the playoffs, because that’s what it’s going to take to make the Wild Card this year with the emergence of some of the teams that would normally not be in discussion in late fall.
Smith got an extent ion to early and even though we are better now than 3 years ago, you still have to be able to ask yourself the hard questions. Where the GM and HC great for getting us on our feet and building a foundation, but are they the crew to take us over the top to the promise land.

JMF

September 29th, 2011
8:56 am

Sam Baker is a Right Tackle. The Falcons are trying to make him into a Left Tackle. He is too slow to be a great Left Tackle. He probably is a good to great Right Tackle. C’mon Falcons we need a great Left Tackle. The league drafts DE and LT high. There is a reason. There may not be a lot we can do this year but Left Tackle has to be addressed. I afraid Baker is not the answer. If at the end of the year I have to eat these words, I am happy.

Stepchild

September 29th, 2011
9:02 am

Roddy White made headlines this offseason when he said Atlanta’s offense has a chance to become the second coming of the “Greatest Show on Turf.” “This offense can be great,’’ White said. “We’re loaded. We are loaded. We already were pretty good and we added the guys we needed to add.’’

YES YOU ARE LOADED!!! LMFAO!

North FLA Falcon

September 29th, 2011
9:06 am

The problem is play calling. On 3rd down, no back in the backfield = no blitz pickup, so they bull rush Ryan and pressure him. (how many times did Tampa do this??) First down means run up the middle = stack the box and Turner for 1 yard. Some of the earlier bloggers have said it: use our speed! Get Norwood and Rogers in screens, get them outside. If Turner has such great hands, get him in space maybe with a pulling guard and gobble up some yards. If it’s a pass play, go into the shotgun or roll Ryan outside … if nothing is there he is pretty good at tucking the ball and running maybe for a 1st down. We can dominate Seattle! Road games are good opportunities for the guys to bond a bit … tear it up then get ready for Green Bay. Go Birds.

hike!!!

September 29th, 2011
9:07 am

Ryan gets sacked often because we never call screen plays to slow down the pass rush, nor do we ever “trap block”. The predictable play calling also contributes, allowing defenses to dominate our offense…then we get behind, have to pass…everyone knows it…game over.
The number 1 problem….the poor play calling. That’s really were we begin to lose these games.
Nothing looks more pathetic than Turner running up the gut right into the back of his own linemen for 1 yard. Please let Ryan call the plays for the entire game…not just when we get hopelessly behind.

punjabiinatl

September 29th, 2011
9:15 am

dont get panic falcons fan ….. i think everything gona be taken care begining this sunday …. falcons gonna be on roll after that…..just matter of time they yell togeather …… go falconssssssss