Is Justin Blalock in a Fight to Start?

#63 the Weak Link on the OL?

 Taken in the second round by then General Manager Rich McKay and Coach Bobby Prictrino, Justin Blalock seemed to be a steal out of Texas in the second round. He was well known for being a bulldozing tackle who earned All-American honors as a freshman in Austin and could project extremely well inside to guard, where his strength and run blocking ability could shine while he honed his pass blocking skills. Blalock came in as a rookie in 2007 and has started 46 out of 48 games since becoming a Falcon. #63 had major flashes as a rookie when he was plugged in at left guard, but also had some struggles adjusting to the pro game. Even though his individual stats may not have looked fantastic in 2008, he should get a large amount of credit for contributing to the second leading rushing team in the NFL, pushing Michael Turner to the second leading rusher in the NFL and into the Pro Bowl. Statistics aside, its hard to argue that Blalock, and the entire OL, didn’t play a part in that effort.

Unfortunately, Blalock has ranked near the very bottom in terms of guard rankings and ratings the last two years. When the entire OL is successful, such as 2008, many issues from individual players can easily be overlooked or covered up. That was certainly not true last year when the Birds offensive line seriously underachieved. Many believe that Blalock is in fact the weak link on the Line and has never adjusted appropriately to the left guard position after playing his entire college career as a right tackle. #63 hasn’t had much help in terms of his tackle mate Sam Baker either. Baker has often been hurt and underperformed often as well. Is Blalock’s struggles a direct result of the left tackle’s weakness? Or is he the main person to blame? One thing is for certain: the Falcons drafted guard Mike Johnson out of Alabama who holds the records for most starts by an Alabama player….EVER! Most expect that Johnson will be eased in gradually and groomed to take over either for right guard Dahl or Blalock. But is it out of the question that Johnson could replace Blalock this year? Let the debate run…………..

Blalock by the Numbers

2008

Overall Comprehensive Ranking – 70th (out of 74; -23.0 Rating)

Pass Block – 55th (-5.0 Rating)

Run Block – 71st (-11.5 Rating)

2009

Overall Comprehensive Ranking – 73rd (out of 84; -13.0 Rating)

Pass Block – 44th (+1.4 Rating)

Run Block – 74th (-9.3 Rating)

Penalties – 70th (-5.0 Rating)

Sacks – Tied 37th (2)

QB Hits – 84th (Dead Last; 13)

QB Pressures – Tied 50th (12)

Good Games – New England, New Orleans (1st)

Awful Games – Miami, Washington, NY Giants, Tampa Bay (2nd)

**Special Thanks to ProFootballFocus.com for their Excellent Stat Work**

Please check them out. Links for Blalock’s Individual Stats and All Guard Rankings

Could/Should Be Replaced

Justin Blalock may have been hurt initially by having to play out of position when he was drafted by Coach Prictrino in 2007, but he has had plenty of time to correct his mistakes of the past and do a better individual job. He not only has not progressed since he was a rookie, but he actually has digressed. He has ranked near the very bottom the last two years in terms of all guards. He was ranked 71st out of 74 guards this year by ProFootballFocus.com. Granted, these statistics are subjective for sure, but when Blalock consistently ranks at or the near the bottom in all three of his years as a Falcon, its hard to believe it’s a conspiracy. He did only give up 2 sacks from his area in 2009, but remember that Matt Ryan has far and away the most throwaways of any player in the NFL (30, compared to next closest Jason Campbell’s 22). Most of these throwaways were do to Ryan getting pressure from his back side where Blalock and Baker manned the blind side. He ranked absolutely dead last in QB Hits in the entire NFL with 13. Blalock was known for his road-grading blocking and that would be the easy part of his game, but that is a myth that somehow perpetuates due to his size perhaps. He ranked 71st in run blocking in 2008 and 74th in 2009.

Along with Harvey Dahl, Tyson Clabo, and Quinn Ojinnaka, Justin Blalock is due to become a free agent if a new deal is not reached. Thomas Dimitroff has drafted three offensive lineman (Mike Johnson, Joe Hawley, and Garrett Reynolds) that very well look to get into the starting rotation sooner rather than later. One of the biggest and his highest picks was Mike Johnson out of Alabama. Johnson is a proven starter in college and was ranked as one of the best guards in the draft. He has played both positions and even some left tackle, but his natural position is left guard, so obviously Dimitroff has hand-picked Blalock’s successor. Blalock may benefit from moving back to his natural position at right guard, but the guess is that Blalock will be the easiest decision when he becomes a free agent and some have suggested the he may even be traded. If nothing else, #63 is probably playing to get a good contract when he finishes as a Falcon.

More Help + Position Change = Keeper

Blalock is criticized as the weakest link on the offensive line, but this is unfair because he has been one of the most consistent offensive lineman over the past three years, starting 46 out of 48 games. First of all, Blalock was drafted by a Coach who didn’t know what the hell he was doing in the NFL and promptly moved Blalock out of position to left guard, where rarely or even never played in college at Texas. He played right tackle and was moved to left guard. He has had little help on the left side with Sam Baker often being hurt and seeing player after player having to step in. For instance, he has never had the consistency in having a partner the way Harvey Dahl has had Tyson Clabo in rarely missing games. Baker missed 8 games in 2008 and missed two games this year.

Blalock does need to show progress this year, but the talent is there. He has prototypical size for a guard (6’4, 329) and obviously has talent (1st Team All-American as a freshman at Texas). Some of his best games came against the toughest opponents in New England and New Orleans this past season. Possibly some of Blalock’s poor performance, the same with all the Falcons OL, came due to Mike Mularkey’s easily predictable play-calling. When the defense can simply guess what’s coming next, even the best offensive linemen don’t stand a chance. Blalock may benefit from a move back to right guard, where Harvey Dahl currently sits. Hard to argue not re-signing Dahl due to his numbers, but Blalock is 3 years younger, is bigger, and it would be laughable to suggest that Blalock wouldn’t flourish next to big Tyson Clabo and his amazing consistency. This may be Blalock’s last year as a Falcon, but the coaching staff need to look deeply in seeing if his struggles were all his fault or bad luck. They also need to truly see if which has more long-term upside: Dahl or Blalock?

Debate Away (Your Turn)

-What’s your overall thoughts on Justin Blalock as a Falcon?

-Blalock’s poor performance his own fault or bad circumstances?

-Simply put, is Justin Blalock the weakest link of the OL?

-Could anyone do any better next to Sam Baker and/or Will Svitek?

-Does Johnson legitimately have a chance to replace Blalock this year?

-Any chance Blalock is a Falcon in 2011?

-Could #63 be traded before the season?

-Should Falcons front office consider a position switch for Blalock?

 

AJC Falcons Writer D.Orlando Ledbetter is back from vacation and has unleashed a flurry of posts. Check them out……

Matt Ryan Loves Some Underneath Passing

Falcons Top 10 Off-Season Moves

WR Kerry Meier Close to a Deal

 

Please Follow The Bird Cage on Twitter (D3_Falcons) and Become a Fan of The Cage on Facebook

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Sgt. Pepper

July 13th, 2010
1:20 pm

ATLJBO

July 13th, 2010
1:56 pm

I think Justin Blalock will start this year…

Knew Money

July 13th, 2010
2:10 pm

Almost First

Competition is a good thing. Go Falcons

The Real Falcon

July 13th, 2010
2:11 pm

Since Smitty likes to have all OL play different postions why not look at Blalock at RG in practices?

ATLJBO

July 13th, 2010
2:40 pm

The Real Falcon

I think Blalock at RG is a possibility (in 2011) … I believe we will keep the player that plays best in 2010 and signs the best falcon friendly deal (Blalock or Dahl) … Most likely dahl tho.

DHunt

July 13th, 2010
3:24 pm

I have really liked the Falcons line for the past 3 years. There are some real players there, but Injuries at left tackle have been a big problem. In this league, can we afford not to keep all the good OL players we can find?

SeminoleWarrior

July 13th, 2010
4:38 pm

Hang in there Justin. The Warrior is coming to your defense.

Ken Strickland

July 13th, 2010
5:02 pm

We can’t dismiss the idea of him improving drastically by moving to the right side. After all, look at the tremendous difference moving CB BGrimes to the right side made in his play. I doubt if we’ll resign both HDahl and JBlalock. Who we resign might depend on how our season goes, especially with our rushing attack and pass DEF, and how much interest each of our FA DLinemen get during FA.

Moose

July 13th, 2010
5:15 pm

Mike Johnson will start at LG sooner than later and Blalock moves over to RG……….. With Garrett Reynolds in the mix this is gonna be a battle royal……….

D3

July 13th, 2010
5:23 pm

Great No-Feel Tuesday — Hope you Cage guys and gals are doing well in the insane heat of the summer. Training Camp is barely over 2 weeks away. Falcons and Football are about to return. Praise Be!

Sgt Pepper — Me dos. Not too long now. Just remember when the Super Bowl had just ended.

ATLJBO — Agreed. I think this is either Dahl or Blalock’s last year. Dimitroff didn’t pick Mike Johnson to be a long-term backup. Neither did he with Joe Hawley either. The thing I’m most curious about is Garrett Reynolds. Is a potential replacement for Clabo? I get the feeling that Clabo wants out. JMHO

Knew Money — Whats up man? How’s the summer so far?

Real Falcon — Good point. We would hate to have let Blalock go if he has more upside (and youth) than Dahl.

DHunt — That’s a real nice fact. Blalock has certainly been hurt by poor play and injuries from Sam Baker. Add to that the fact that the left side is always tougher, and maybe he’s not as bad as his stats suggest.

SeminoleWarrior

July 13th, 2010
5:36 pm

Good afternoon Cage. D3, another fine piece of work. And I love this particular topic for I like this young man alot.

Justin Blalock is an outstanding RT/RG. Let me repeat myself. Justin Blalock is an outstanding RG/RT. That is where he has ALWAYS excelled through the course of his football career in high school and at Texas. He has the potential to be dominate in the run game due to his size and his mobility. On the right side of the line, speed is not an asset on defense so his massive frame is much more effective there.

I remind you that this Falcon team was built to run first. The regime before the current one, the Petrino joke, was going to run the rock. This team had no intention on their QB being a true QB. He was going to work gadget plays under the auspice of a so-called offensive wizard/craftsman. The experiment was over before it began. The OL was simply supposed to push the defender out of the way and let the “electric one” do his thing. Again, this plan was doomed to fail before it hit the field.
One the “electric one” became the “accused one”, there was no plan of re-dress. Everything had been placed in this one basket.

Until this draft, we did not have a single player that has the mobility and quick strike movement needed to enjoy long term success on the left side. This draft, we attempted to address that this year with LG/LT Mike Johnson. But he is the ONLY true left sider we have on our roster.

Just getting started…but will pause here.

SeminoleWarrior

July 13th, 2010
5:38 pm

2011 OL Projection:

RT – Reynolds
RG – Blalock
C – Hawley
LG – Johnson
LT – Baker ( last chance, Sam)

SeminoleWarrior

July 13th, 2010
5:46 pm

Blalock, Dahl, and Ojinnaka are all free agent guards next year. Blalock, in IMHO, will be retained for less money as well as a move to the right side.

Clabo is also a FA but Reynolds, who is signed through 2013, is warming up in the shadows. Hawley assumes the mantel from McClure next season. McClure has one more year on his deal through 2012 so he may come back to ensure depth. Romberg is a 2011 FA.

Left tackle has a potentially serious lack of depth with only Baker and Svitek. Though both are on the books through 2013, we need to add depth and talent to that position. It could be address in the 2011 draft early. That depends on Baker’s health and play.

JJ

July 13th, 2010
5:48 pm

SW, like that lineup at the end of the season, but may be a tad bold to start with. Either way, like your think’n brother!

JJ

July 13th, 2010
5:49 pm

Hope you’ve been studying!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

SeminoleWarrior

July 13th, 2010
5:53 pm

Cage,

Justin Blalock has been out of position since the day he arrived at the Branch. He manned the LG position by default because we simply did not have anyone else capable of stepping up and playing the position. This draft we moved to address that with the selection of OG/OT Mike Johnson.

Blalock has all the tools needed to be a potentially dominate RG. Massive size and great strength. All he is missing is the lateral movement to excel in the passing game. He has it in limited fashion which is perfectly suited for the right side.

SeminoleWarrior

July 13th, 2010
5:54 pm

JJ, I think you will see it more often than we think as the season progresses. Depth and OJT are crucial to Smitty.

SeminoleWarrior

July 13th, 2010
5:55 pm

Ohhhhhhhh JJ, trust me, I have been fine tuning the draft board and the scouts are VERY busy. I am still quite pissed at the performance (or lack thereof) of the Posse last season. I will not have that happen again. I promise that!!

JJ

July 13th, 2010
5:56 pm

yea, take your time SW. Cooking a little bacon wrapped scallpeds, waiting on phils tribute on DC tonight, CBrass- we cool girl? You know I provoke you and D3 with UGA? All good, I root huge for the dawgs UNTIL they play the mighty panthers one day -GSU- lol.

JJ

July 13th, 2010
5:57 pm

scallops that is!

SeminoleWarrior

July 13th, 2010
5:57 pm

Remember Cage, the current Falcon OL is primarily filled with journeymen or draft picks. They are still coming into their own. And most of them are geared predominately for the RIGHT side of the OL.

Only Ojinnaka, Baker, and Johnson have ever seen EXTENSIVE time on the left side. The transition from left to right is MUCH easier than the move from right to left.

JJ

July 13th, 2010
6:01 pm

SW my friend, glad to hear it, was really looking for the battle royale of the war eagle that never took place. You’ve seen my game face, you know my demeanor, bring it my friend!!!!! lol

SeminoleWarrior

July 13th, 2010
6:03 pm

JJ, I plan to bring it. And I too want to see what Coach Curry and the Panthers have put together. I have the highest respect for that man. One class act. And I have the feel the Panthers will be a force sooner rather than later.

Looking forward to seeing them play during an FSU away weekend or bye week.

JJ

July 13th, 2010
6:07 pm

SW, I bet you do, but ala. has them this yr, going to be a massacre! Why can’t they wait a few yrs before playing big powerhouses? I know, the almighty dollar! Cannot wait until the bird-cage draft, who’s first this yr?

JJ

July 13th, 2010
6:09 pm

SW, I pissed off CBrass with the prelude of red panties coming this yr, any advice for forgiveness?

SeminoleWarrior

July 13th, 2010
6:20 pm

JJ, Damon did it to the Dawg nation. I recall all the crap I heard about “Free Shoes University”.

CBrass is a good sport. She will forgive you. She gives it to me all the time about my Seminoles and well as Norwood.

When training camp opens up, make sure she gets another close contact moment with Biermann and it’s Christmas time in late summer. I assure you. Better yet, when Biermann jerseys go on sale, you will be as cool as the other side of the pillow with that peace offering.

SeminoleWarrior

July 13th, 2010
6:29 pm

Side note…but a very good read. Check it out. I definately concur with the author’s assessments.

http://www.fftoolbox.com/football/nfl_news.cfm?news_id=1618

CBrass

July 13th, 2010
6:59 pm

D3,

As always great job. From the consensus here it looks as if Justin is playing out of position. Sounds as if Clabo is looking for his big pay day if so that would open up the door for Justin to move back to his original position. It would so be interesting to see how he does is Baker is able to stay healthy.

JJ

July 13th, 2010
7:10 pm

SW, tks buddy I’ll try for redemption but dont fall asleep in front of the radar, new mags are out!!!

CB, jersey for forgiveness? ps- dont uga women own uga red panties? damn, did it again, lol!!!

JJ

July 13th, 2010
7:13 pm

All in fun cage family !!! Life is short, enjoy the friends/family you have on this side of earth!!!

CBrass

July 13th, 2010
8:08 pm

SW,

Enjoyed the link instead of that fantasy analysis part…LOL

SeminoleWarrior

July 13th, 2010
8:11 pm

JJ, if there is no fun in life, what the hell are we living for?

SeminoleWarrior

July 13th, 2010
8:12 pm

Point well made, CBrass. I personally think that the end is near for both Clabo and Dahl.

JJ

July 13th, 2010
8:13 pm

red panties?

SeminoleWarrior

July 13th, 2010
8:13 pm

CB, sorry about the fantasy issues. I know that does not sit well with you. But the article was well written and definately to the point. A great piece if I may say so.

On a side note, the fantasy tips were not that bad. LOL.

SeminoleWarrior

July 13th, 2010
8:14 pm

JJ, I’m trying to help you brother. Be careful, she is going to erupt shortly.

CBrass

July 13th, 2010
8:19 pm

SW,

I read his article on SI and it was well written. He stated what you’ve been talking us for the past year or so. I can see why we pick up a receiver like Meier. From what I read he ran a lot of intermediate routes at KU.

CBrass

July 13th, 2010
8:20 pm

SW,

The fact that Ryan gave my hubby a shout out didn’t hurt either…LOL

SeminoleWarrior

July 13th, 2010
8:22 pm

I’m telling you my dear friend, the implementation of the intermediate game is going to take MR2 into a whole new dimension. Watch. Douglas and Meier are about to become the smaller scale versions of Gonzalez and Garcon in Indy.

JJ

July 13th, 2010
8:22 pm

R.I.P. Captain Phil of Cornellia Marie, 2 hrs special at 9pm tonight!

SW, tks buddy, she knows were good…i hope!

SeminoleWarrior

July 13th, 2010
8:22 pm

Hubby…double digit sacks. Who predicted it first. That’s right, TeePee Sports Central.

SeminoleWarrior

July 13th, 2010
8:24 pm

JJ, is he the Captain that had the heart attack/stroke? I had never watched the show until I watched it while visiting a very good friend a couple weeks back. It is a very interesting show. With no WNBA action tonight, I may tune in.

JJ

July 13th, 2010
8:29 pm

yea, one of my fav. shows, that and lisa in ice road truckers! Would love to see CBrass in that show, truckers not bearing sea!

JJ

July 13th, 2010
8:33 pm

SW, tried to hire (part-time) our other princessto my co. to no avail.
Je ne sais pas!

SeminoleWarrior

July 13th, 2010
8:37 pm

Why did she not go for it?

JJ

July 13th, 2010
8:37 pm

D3, I’ve stated before and profootballfocus confirms Blaylock status. He is the weak Link in the OL, with Sam a close second, IMHO. Dought he will start after a few games but rotate heavily in smiths sceam.

SeminoleWarrior

July 13th, 2010
8:39 pm

DOD has a hiring freeze in place except for most critical skill sets at this time. It sucks too!! A lot of good people out there and we can’t touch them. But we can keep the retreads and jackasses!!

Oh well, we will keep trying for her. Both of our princesses here in the blog are strong willed women.

JJ

July 13th, 2010
8:39 pm

no idea, guessing low pay offer, but it was just a starting point…;(