He’s ready to start evaluating the offensive line, a major area of concern for the 2012 season, when they face the Baltimore Ravens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Georgia Dome.
“We want to be able to protect the quarterback,” Smith said after practice on Tuesday. “That’s going to be the first thing, when we throw the football and then controlling the line of scrimmage.”
The offensive line gave up 26 sacks and 84 quarterback hits last season. The Falcons first two draft picks were offensive linemen and they replaced offensive line coach Paul Boudreau with Pat Hill, the former head coach at Fresno State.
After the offseason, Smith was already pointing toward the exhibition games and stating how important they were for the offensive linemen. He wants to see how the line holds up under full contact. With the new collective bargaining agreement rules that limited practice time, Smith and his staff have not put too much stock in the workouts.
They will determine the line positions based on the exhibition games. Smith doesn’t put much stock in the depth chart which shows the same starters who opened last season on the first-team.
“On the offensive line there will be more substitutions,” Smith said. “In the last couple of years, normally we stayed with the same group for the period that they were in there. We may be moving some guys around.”
Smith has stated that every spot on the line was subject to open competition.
“I think we’ll see that (substitutions) and it will give us some time to evaluate a number of guys that are battling for positions,” Smith said. “There are probably 12 to 13 guys realistically that have a chance to be one of the nine [players] on our roster. It going to be very important for us and the real evaluation process, truly starts on Thursday night.”
Smith knows that the Ravens will give the linemen a good test.
“This is a team that has historically put a lot of pressure on the quarterback,” Smith said.
It’s a very important test because if the line can’t pass protect for longer periods of time, the vertical passing attack that they Falcons are trying to install will not have enough time to function.
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–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog