Well, obviously Mike Johnson will not come in and replace either left guard Justin Blalock or right guard Harvey Dahl this year, but the Falcons front office surely have some long-term plans for Johnson since they spent a third rounder on him and will have all 3 guards (Harvey Dahl, Justin Blalock, and Quinn Ojinnaka) due to become free agents after this year if no new deal is reached. Justin Blalock and Harvey Dahl seem to be set in their starting guard spots after being the frontline starters the last two years, but you never know once camp starts.
Johnson comes to the Falcons with one of the best resumes for any lineman drafted in the 2010 NFL Draft. Mike Johnson was a three year starter at Alabama in which they compiled a pretty outstanding record, only suffering two losses in two seasons and included two SEC Championship appearances, an SEC Title, and a National Championship. Not to mention that Johnson also was a major part of paving the way for running back Mark Ingram to win the Heisman Trophy in a very close competition. First team All-American and first team All-SEC. Perhaps the biggest recognition to be heaped on Johnson is the fact that he leaves the storied program of Alabama as playing in more games (54) than any other player in Crimson Tide history. That alone should merit some serious consideration that Johnson may have a future starting very soon.
The former Alabama guard has excellent size (6’5, 312) and could legitimately challenge for a starting spot in the near future, even if not this year. Johnson has an excellent motor, long arms, will work to the second level, and is smart with terrific instincts and awareness. Some knocks on him include not being strong enough, not being stout at the point of attack, and is not overly quick or agile. Obviously the question is not whether Johnson figures into the long term plans, but how soon might Johnson break into the starting lineup.
4 Tackles – Sam Baker, Tyson Clabo, Garrett Reynolds, Will Svitek
3 Guards – Harvey Dahl, Justin Blalock, Quinn Ojinnaka
2 Centers – Todd McClure, Brett Romberg
Harvey Dahl – 25th (2.9 score)
Quinn Ojinnaka – 56th (-4.4 score)
Justin Blalock – 73rd (-13.0 score)
Top Rating – Jahri Evans (29.4 score)
Quinn Ojinnaka – 19th (5.1 score)
Harvey Dahl – 36th (2.6 score)
Justin Blalock – 44th (1.4 score)
Top Rating – Steve Hutchison (13.3)
Harvey Dahl – 29th (2.8 score)
Quinn Ojinnaka – 66th (-5.5 score)
Justin Blalock – 74th (-9.4 score)
Top Rating – Jahri Evans (27.1)
Quinn Ojinnaka – 0, Justin Blalock – 2, Harvey Dahl – 3
Quinn Ojinnaka – 2, Harvey Dahl – 1, Justin Blalock – 13 (ranked last)
Quinn Ojinnaka – 1, Harvey Dahl – 10, Justin Blalock – 12
The above stats are just that….cold statistics that don’t tell the entire story, such as Quinn Ojinnaka had lower numbers mainly because he only had 333 snaps, compared to over 1,000 a piece for Blalock and Dahl. The statistics also don’t factor in opponents faced, running back effectiveness, offensive coordinator’s play-calls, and offensive balance to name a few. For instance, Jahri Evans took the overall top rating, but gave up 15 QB Pressures and 2 QB Sacks himself.
The comprehensive stats do at least give a gauge on where the weakest link might lie on the offensive line. Although Harvey Dahl was far from perfect and only ranked in the top third himself, Justin Blalock ranked near the bottom in several categories and proves to be the weakest of the guards. Ojinnaka surely had good numbers, but had only a third of the snaps that Blalock and Dahl did. The most interesting prospect is the fact that all 3 guards will be due to become unrestricted free agents this year if no new deal is reached. Even though he proved to be very capable in a smaller number of appearances, Ojinnaka will be fighting for his professional life when training camp rolls around in August. Common wisdom would think that Dimitroff will re-up either Dahl or Blalock, but the big question is: will Mike Johnson become a starter sooner, later, or maybe not at all?
**Special Thanks to ProFootballFocus.com for their excellent stats
-Time to give your excellent insight and opinion on the guard situation
-Was Mike Johnson a good pick in the 3rd round?
-Should the Falcons have pulled the trigger earlier or waited on guard?
-Simply put, Is Mike Johnson a future starter at guard?
-Any chance that Mike Johnson takes over this year?
-Out of the 3 guards (Dahl, Blalock, Ojinnaka), who should TD re-sign?
-Should TD consider moving Clabo to guard?