What Should Falcons Do with the OL?

Big Decisions Await

Last Time Together? (AJC)

Some major decisions have been building for several years regarding the offensive line and what the future will look like for one of the most important aspects of any successful team. The story is well-documented for Bird fans since Head Coach Mike Smith and General Manager Thomas Dimitroff came together to start the new, and most successful, regime in Atlanta Falcons history. One of Smith’s main hires was famed offensive line coach Paul Boudreau who would have his work cut out for him with not much in the way of talent and many veterans on the verge of retirement. The 2007 offensive line was made up of several older veterans picked high in the draft but claimed through free agency (Wayne Gandy – 36 – 1st round; Todd Weiner – 32 – 2nd round ), one recent and high draft pick (Justin Blalock – 2nd round), many late round draftees (Quinn Ojinnaka – 5th; Todd McClure – 7th, Kynan Forney – 7th), and one undrafted free agent (Tyson Clabo). The task was obviously a steep one.

Surprising Model of Consistency

Thomas Dimitroff traded draft picks to climb up and grab Sam Baker in the first round to protect his newly drafted franchise quarterback. They claimed Harvey Dahl off a practice squad who was also an undrafted free agent and moved their other undrafted free agent to Tyson Clabo to right tackle. Many were skeptical of an offensive line devoid of such talent. Boudreau and Smith worked their magic to turn the OL into a highly overachieving line that led the Falcons to an 11-5 record, leading the NFL in rushing, pushing Michael Turner to the Pro Bowl, protecting Matt Ryan to become Rookie of the Year, and a trip to the playoffs. Dimitroff and Co. felt it was important to keep the offensive line together and knew he had the upper hand with Blalock, Baker, and McClure being under contract, as well as knowing that both Clabo and Dahl would be restricted free agents. The offensive line has pretty much stayed the exact same. Since taking Baker in 2008, Dimitroff has drafted tackle Garrett Reynolds in the 5th round, guard Mike Johnson in the 3rd, Joe Hawley in the 4th, and claimed tackle Will Svitek in free agency. With three of the starting offensive lineman set to become unrestricted free agents (Clabo, Dahl, Blalock) and another moving up in age (McClure), it’s not a matter of “if” the OL changes, but rather “how much.” Here’s a rundown of the characters at play………..

The Free Agents

Tyson Clabo – 6’6 – 331 – Age: 29 – Games Started as a Falcon: 69

The most well-known of the OL and surely to be one of the biggest names to hit the free agent market, assuming that Dimitroff doesn’t attempt to re-sign him before then. He is the biggest of all the OL and has absolutely been the model of consistency for the Falcons, starting 69 games since 2006 and not missing one game due to injury. For those that crave a big and nasty offensive line, Clabo is right up their alley and is a giant among most men. He has proven that he can play extremely well against down lineman and blitzing 3-4 linebackers alike. The giant RT could be considered the Falcons best offensive lineman since he was just named to his first Pro Bowl in 2011. Why in the world would TD allow Clabo to walk? The obvious reason is that Clabo has made no secret about his desire to test the free agent market. Last year he was on record as definitely being upset about the change from players becoming free agents after 6 years instead of 4. A shock may be in order, but it’s almost a certainty that of all three free agent OL, Clabo is the most likely to be long gone. With all the holes and free agents due up and Garrett Reynolds waiting in the wings, it’s doubtful Dimitroff will get into a bidding war over Clabo.

Harvey Dahl – 6’5 – 305 – Age: 29 – Games Started as a Falcon: 43

One of the “nastiest players in the NFL,” one Mr. Dahl has made a fantastic name for himself along side the Bad Boy side of the line with Tyson Clabo. You won’t find a tougher and more old-school football player than Harvey Dahl. Even though he’s definitely curbed his aggressive streak after the whistle, Dahl has made the Atlanta Falcons recognizable as a lunch pail crowd who may not have the most talent, but will outwork and out hit their opponents. That attitude has helped pave the way for the Falcons posting back-to-back-to-back winning seasons in franchise history. Dahl might be the biggest question mark when it comes to re-signing the any of the free agent OL. It’s highly unlikely that Dimitroff will re-sign all three players with all the other free agents on the roster and some moves he may make in the overall market. The Falcons could decide to keep Dahl and let Tyson Clabo walk, but would they be willing to part with Justin Blalock since they drafted him (under McKay), he seems to have more upside, is younger, and could move back to his natural position of right guard? Will they want to re-sign both Blalock and Dahl with Mike Johnson, who they drafted in the 3rd round, and upstart Jose Valdez waiting in the wings?

Justin Blalock – 6’4 – 329 – Age: 27 – Games Started as a Falcon: 62

Will Blalock and Clabo Be Back? (C.Compton/AJC)

Along with Clabo and McClure, Blalock has also been a model of consistency since he was drafted by Bobby Petrino and Rich McKay in 2007. After some early struggles, Blalock seems to have improved a good bit on the left side with Sam Baker. With Baker’s health issues and inconsistency, Blalock has seemingly gotten better and has started on the offensive line since he was drafted except for two games. The big OL from Texas has played his entire career at left guard for the Falcons, even though his natural position was right guard in college. Out of the three free agents, Blalock looks to be the most likely to be re-signed due to his youth, upside, and the fact that he was drafted by the Falcons. Blalock appears to give the most versatility of all three as well. He could obviously stay at left guard if they decide to keep Harvey Dahl, or he could move back to his natural position of right guard if they feel that either Mike Johnson or Jose Valdez is ready to take over on the left side. Out of Clabo, Dahl, and Blalock, the 2007 draftee from Texas seems the most likely to be in the Falcons future somewhere on the OL.

The Ageless Vet

Todd McClure – 6’1 – 296 – Age: 33 – Games Started as a Falcon: 166

Not too much to say here. He’s the ultimate team guy and consummate Atlanta Falcon. He’s the captain of the offensive line and is the most veteran Falcon on the entire team. Even though many will think of the Saints fumble late in the season or the mishandle against the Packers (although the game was basically out of reach anyway), McClure is a great captain, has developed great chemistry with Matt Ryan, and won’t ever get outworked. The only issue is when he will hang up his cleats. There were rumblings that McClure might be close to retirement a few years ago, but he seems committed to keep going. He has said how much he he’s enjoyed the consistency with his OL teammates, so could the change coming prompt him to rethink his future?

The Unproven

Garrett Reynolds – 6’7 – 317 – Age: 23

The behemoth right tackle was drafted in 2009 from North Carolina in the fifth round and was expected not just to be a backup, but was projected to be a potential starter one day. He played in 4 games as a rookie in limited roles and never started. For those that have ever been to Training Camp in Flowery Branch, it’s impossible not to notice the Giant Garrett Reynolds. He’s hand downs the biggest man on campus and seems to be improving, but the big question remains whether the Falcons top brass feels confident enough in Reynolds to let Tyson Clabo walk into free agency after making his first Pro Bowl and starting 69 games in 5 years. Reynolds probably wouldn’t have much of a drop in pass blocking, but questions would be prevalent about his run blocking skills. Even though he did cross-train at guard after becoming a Falcon, his versatility appears limited to right tackle.

Mike Johnson – 6’5 – 312 – Age: 23

Johnson was one of the most decorated linemen to come out of last year’s draft. He was 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. Besides Sam Baker, Johnson is the highest drafted offensive lineman in the Smith/Dimitroff era. With so many free agents coming up, it was almost a certainty that Johnson would be starting on the OL sooner rather than later. The question wasn’t if but where Johnson would be, at right guard or left guard. Although highly rated when coming out, reports had the former Crimson Tide struggling at the onset of preseason camp. The most likely scenario would think to have Blalock move back to his natural position of right guard and allow Johnson to move in at left guard. Will that be too much of a risk having him next to inconsistent Sam Baker? Or will Dimitroff elect to re-sign both Dahl and Blalock, which would basically relegate Johnson to backup duty? We’ll know very soon.

Joe Hawley – 6’3 – 297 – Age: 22

Hawley was somewhat of a surprise when Dimitroff nabbed him in the fourth round. He may not have been the highest rated center prospect, but he seemed to fit what Coach Smith and Coach Boudreau like in an offensive lineman. He possesses the physical tools and nasty streak they are looking for in a center. Although he could play guard, he appears ready to take over for Todd McClure whenever he decides to retire. Appeared in 15 games this year, most likely on special teams.

Jose Valdez – 6’6 – 324 – Age: 24

What Will Boudreau's New OL Be? (B.Sanderlin/AJC)

A practice squad hero during the 2010 preseason. Some even thought that Valdez might sneak his way onto the 53 man roster after he played both guard and tackle overall well. His play and quick feet garnered him some attention with fans and raised the possibility he may be in the Falcons future plans if he weren’t snagged off their practice squad. He may not make it all the way up to starter status, but this might be his best shot to crack the OL rotation.

The Question Marks

Sam Baker – 6’5 – 307 – Age: 25 – Games Started as a Falcon: 35

The story’s well-documented here as well. Baker has been a lightning rod for debate since Dimitroff traded up to grab Baker in the first round to protect his franchise quarterback’s blind side. He has been inconsistent at best since he took over LT as a rookie. He only started 5 games as a rookie and many feared he would be an injury-prone draft bust. He came back in 2009 and only missed 2 games and started all 16 games this year. He seemed to improve some, but then there were games where he struggled mightily. Baker will obviously be a part of the offensive line, but the question is whether he will remain at left tackle. Could he be moved to right tackle and the Falcons elect to go with another tackle in the first round? Could he even be moved to guard, where his supposedly short arms wouldn’t be as much of a liability? With the Tackle class coming out and so many other areas up for change, it’s likely that Smith and Dimitroff will elect to keep Baker at LT, but you never know. The main question is whether Baker has hit his ceiling and should be moved.

Will Svitek – 6’6 – 309 – Age: 29 – Games Started as a Falcon: 2

When Will Svitek was signed by Thomas Dimitroff in 2009, many thought it looked very similar to what they did with Tyson Clabo and Harvey Dahl. All were either not drafted or cut by other teams and OL Coach Paul Boudreau worked his magic by turning Dahl and Clabo into everyday starters and even helped Clabo to the Pro Bowl. Svitek has only started 2 games in his two years as a Falcon, but has played in all but three. There were even some reports that had him possibly beating out Sam Baker early in the 2010 campaign. Contract info is a bit hard to find, but Svitek may be a free agent himself. Could he make a play to start somewhere or is he just a serviceable backup?

Potential Draft Class

The offensive tackle class coming out doesn’t appear to be the strongest in recent memory, but Dimitroff and Co. could elect to draft someone with the hope of them taking over at left tackle eventually. Due to the Falcons drafting 27th, its somewhat doubtful that a franchise left tackle could be snagged that late, at least immediately. By comparison, one of the higher rated tackles coming out last year, Bryan Bulaga, slid all the way to 23rd and was moved to right tackle. Ranked in order courtesy of DraftCountdown.com:

Nate Solder – 6’9 – 315 – Colorado

Anthony Castonozo – 6-7 – 295 – Boston College

Derek Sherrod – 6’6 – 305 – Mississippi State

Gabe Carimi – 6’7 – 327 – Wisconsin

So many scenarios and possibilities at play here. There’s a distinct likelihood that at least all three offensive lineman free agents won’t be re-signed and even a possibility that 2 of the 3 may not be re-signed. Do the Falcons go the safe route and keep their known commodities even though the current OL may have peaked, or do they infuse youth and talent with the risk that comes with younger players? Dimitroff stated that he has a “good idea of what their offensive line will look like in 2011.” Too bad he’s the only one that knows.

The Experts Set the OL (Your Turn)

-What will the Falcons offensive line look like in 2011?

-Who should the Birds keep and who should they let go?

-Where are the strengths and the weaknesses on the current OL?

-Should they re-sign Clabo? Dahl? Blalock?

-Can they keep all three FA OL?

-What’s your thoughts on Reynolds, Johnson, and Hawley?

-Can Jose Valdez make the team or crack the starting lineup?

-What to do with one Mr. Baker: LT, RT, or G?

-Should the Falcons go OT in the first round?

-List your wishful starting offensive line in 2011?

-What will the OL actually be in 2011?

309 comments Add your comment

Unca' Bob

February 5th, 2011
5:14 pm

Enter your comments here

CONservative Johnson

February 5th, 2011
5:41 pm

I like, but don’t love the offensive line. My take is that they are underrated nationally, and overrated locally (and possibly internally) . . .

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jon Abril, D. Orlando Ledbetter. D. Orlando Ledbetter said: AJC's fan blog: What Should Falcons Do with the Offensive Line? http://bit.ly/enXD4E [...]

JB FALCON

February 5th, 2011
5:52 pm

I’m probably not much of a football talent judge but everyone of them sounds like they could be plugged in at any time. McClure will probably retire and hopefully MS will pay to keep Clabo and re-sign Dahl. We have more important issues in the first round than OL.
It would be nice if Baker received a serious challenge next year since he seems to be the weak link. If we lose Clabo, maybe move Baker over there. Wasn’t that his position in college? Plus Valdez is almost as big as Clabo.

falcon21

February 5th, 2011
6:17 pm

It was said all season that we need to throw the ball down field more often, problem is Ryan had no time to throw the ball down field. That is why we roll out as much as we do. The o-line is piss poor in pass protection and is a serious issue. It’s all well and good if these backups can step in and do a better job but you would think we would have seen a little more of them last season, If the coaching staff don’t have confidence in them than we have a problem and the o-line should be a priority in the first or second round.

Bangkapi Ajarn

February 5th, 2011
6:43 pm

Nice, well researched article, D3, nice job! Irregardless of well hidden lurking nits that remain to be picked by sharp eyed editors .

My poor attempt at expressing my opinion, irregardles of the facts, follows:

-What will the Falcons offensive line look like in 2011?
I believe we will lose two of them, not sure which two – I would hate to lose a pro bowl right tackle, but I fear it is destined. TD will let two walk, the two most expensive, IF it gets pricey. All could return if they keep the salary in line (still making more than most of your readers), but TD will recognize the value of generating two nice comp picks (assuming that system remains intact) by letting higher priced FA’s on the OL go. I believe we will lose Dahl and Clabo, and draft two OL (T and G/C).

-Who should the Birds keep and who should they let go?
We should keep Clabo IF he isn’t too expensive, Dahl depends on the cost (maybe keep), and likely let Blalock go (upgrade with Johnson).

-Where are the strengths and the weaknesses on the current OL?
Strengths are a lack of penalties this year, and good run blocking mostly. Weakness I fear is pass blocking, perhaps one contributing factor why we don’t throw downfield more.

Irregardless of impending criticism of my poor attempt, part two follows shortly

Bangkapi Ajarn

February 5th, 2011
6:45 pm

-Should they re-sign Clabo? Dahl? Blalock?
Yes, if not expensive on the first two – contingent on how much we would get back – for example, I would keep both if their pay would only garner a 6th round comp pick, but if I could get a 3 or 4 then lets go for the pick and try to improve pass protection.

-Can they keep all three FA OL?
Totally depends on what the CBA turns out to be, roster sizes, pay for vets vs. rookies, comp pick procedures, etc. Perhaps we will be under totally different rules next year.

-What’s your thoughts on Reynolds, Johnson, and Hawley?
Haven’t seen them enough to have a feel. If they were THAT good, would they get the same shot that Peters got on the D?? Just askin’

-Can Jose Valdez make the team or crack the starting lineup? Depends on how many of the FA’s bolt for greener pastures.

-What to do with one Mr. Baker: LT, RT, or G?
LT for now, we don’t have a better LT to plug in and he meshes well with the others.

-Should the Falcons go OT in the first round?
IF the correct LT slips I am OK, I have seen mocks that give the falcons a shot at Nate Solder. I am of a mind that our 1st round pick should go scatback, LT, or OLB (I have seen mocks that have us trading it to Philly for 2 2’s). Solder may be worth it but not Sherrod. Depends on what scatbacks are there, and how they rate out after the combine, and what OLB’s are there when the Falcons pick. I am hoping there is a run on QB’s early that drops Solder and Ayers or even Miller (although he played 3-4 in College) to the Falcons, and we get a scatback in the 2nd, although a trade out of the 1st to give us 3 2nd round picks wouldn’t suck.
We will need 2 OL in the draft in my opinion, one in the first 3 rounds, one in the later rounds (5-7, and I have seen where the Falcons may have 3 7th round picks?).

-List your wishful starting offensive line in 2011?
Not willing to even guess until we know what the CBA is giving us in terms of roster size and

-What will the OL actually be in 2011?
I am just hoping that there is a need for an OL in 2011, greed is a powerful thing and the power brokers know what short memories we have. Not feeling especially optimistic in this game of Chicken with Billions on the table.

Finally — IRREGARDLESS

JB FALCON

February 5th, 2011
6:45 pm

21, Dimitroff stated that he has a “good idea of what their offensive line will look like in 2011.” (D3) I agree that Ryan had no time and have stated that before. However, Svitek has played in all but three game2 the past two years. Reynolds, Johnson, Hawley and Valdez all seem to have the qualities that we would find in the draft, imo. Like you said, haven’t seen much of them, not unike Sidbury and Lewis.
Like D3 said, I hope TD knows what he’s doing!

Bangkapi Ajarn

February 5th, 2011
6:58 pm

JB – I am thinking the big question will be the size of the roster and how many OL we will keep, as well as how much salary we need to devote to vets (as opposed to rookies under a new rookie wage scale). until we know that it is all written on a cloud in ink formed from runny jello.

If the rules are similar to now, I think the “Pats way” template he may follow suggests we go for the comp picks if they are potentially higher.

Arno

February 5th, 2011
7:37 pm

Fal 21- Are the rollouts simply evidence of weak pass protection? Isn’t giving Ryan different launch points a good thing? Irregardless- good discussion here.

JB FALCON

February 5th, 2011
7:40 pm

BA, I too hate that runny jello. LOL. I hadn’t considered it until your first post but if the CBA goes to 18 games, the teams are going to want more players. Plus, if they put a cap on rookie salaries that will throw a wrench in re-signings, etc.
The whole senerio opens up a whole new can of worms. Do we re-sign our FA’s, if so how do we budget how much we can spend on them? If they go on the market it is my understanding that no one can sign them until after the agreement. Do we sign a draft pick with an open contract as far as salary is concerned? This is going to be a train wreck unless the agreement gets done ASAP. imo.
Maybe I’m just dumb as a rock but the current situation leaves me standing here holding out my hands wishing for something but do not know what it is I want! No, not runny jello!

Bangkapi Ajarn

February 5th, 2011
7:59 pm

JB – make room on that rock, please, I have the same feeling!

I think that once all is said and done that folks like Valdez will benefit with a roster spot on expanded rosters, and the redistribution of new roster money will make folks like Dahl and Clabo very happy!

This could provide employment to hard working 7th round picks this year as well, perhaps why TD has collected three of them (I haven’t been able to verify that). Also why I suspect the Pats have collected so many picks this year – they know the expanded roster could dilute the talent on some rosters so they are in a position to have more quality depth for a longer season.

Irregardless ( waiting for a duck to drop down every time I write that word for some reason), everyone will need more OL on roster if it comes down that way.

falcon21

February 5th, 2011
8:19 pm

Different lanch points is a good thing Arno, especially with weak pass protection, irregardless of the point.

D3

February 5th, 2011
8:42 pm

Great Saturday Eve Cage! — Wow, that post really got away from me. I started Thursday night with the intent of finishing it either Thursday or last night, but bit off more than I could chew in terms of analyzing the entire OL makeup. Anyway, should give us some good discussion.

Personally, I think Clabo AND Dahl are gone. Clabo has made not secret that he wants to get Fat Money Sacks for playing ball. Can’t say I blame him, but a Jake Long he ain’t. I’m just not really counting in the Collective Bargaining deal because its too confusing and up-in-the-air. I’m taking it as if it were to stay the same. Back to Clabo. He’s made several comments about wanting to test the free agent market, so have at it. I think Reynolds can definitely take his spot and upgrade the pass blocking. Maybe not the run blocking as much, but he has been tutoring under Coach Boudreau’s system for 2 years now and I think he’s ready to go. TD may not be as daring as his former Patriots bosses in terms of trading players, but I know he will not overpay when he can draft a younger and at least as talented replacement.

I think the re-signing comes down to Dahl or Blalock. Personally, (and I may get arrows for this one) I believe that Blalock has more upside and is certainly bigger than Dahl. He may even hit his peak if he moves back to his natural position of RG. I love his attitude, aggressiveness, and work ethic, but I think Dahl has peaked and he didn’t perform as well as the past. He will be 30 this summer to boot.

The biggest question mark out there is Mike Johnson. Is he ready to step in and up or will he be relegated to a backup only. To be honest with you, I think the guy’s legit. Trying to put my SEC homer-ism aside, to have started more games than any Alabama offensive lineman in history is pretty d@mn impressive. During his run on the OL (junior and senior years), Alabama lost a grand total of 2 games, won a National Championship, was one quarter away from another one, and produced a Heisman winning running back. Anyone notice how that Heisman winning running back did this year? Just saying that even though its a risk and we’ll take some lumps, I think it’s time to make the switch. Between Johnson, Blalock, and Valdez, I think we’ll be OK at guard. Wouldn’t hurt to add a few more OL in the draft.

On the question of Reynolds or Johnson not starting last year, I’m not sure that’s how Smith and Boudreau roll on their OL. Those other guys had been in his system for two years (three total) and had built some pretty good consistency. I believe that TD and Smith drafted Reynolds, Johnson, and Hawley specifically because they knew this day was coming. No sense on shuffling the OL just for fun when TD knew he would have all of them under contract for several more years while Boudreau could develop the other talent.

On drafting OT’s in the first, I wouldn’t hate it because I’m not sure that there’s an ENORMOUS need this year outside of DE and after doing the research for several years now, rookie DE’s just don’t contribute in year one. That’s just a fact. Julius Peppers was the lone exception. Two things to ask yourself on drafting either an OT or a DE in the first round: would any OT we take at #27 be any more ready to contribute right away than Sam Baker or Garrett Reynolds? And would any DE we take at #27 be any more ready to contribute right away than Biermann or Sidbury? Not saying that they wouldn’t be better long term (and could even be much better), but do we take guys in the first round to develop? I say no………at least at the bottom of the first round. We’re going to have to go the Free Agent route to get any impact at DE. Ray Edwards, Charles Johnson, or Richard Seymour.

Ken Strickland

February 5th, 2011
8:51 pm

I read an article published on FALCFAN.COM which said the Falcons would likely try to resign RT TClabo and RG HDahl, but not LG JBlalock. They implied that although Blalock has improved, he’s still limited, and LG needs an upgrade, especially with the less than stellar performance of LT SBaker.

Screen Pass

February 5th, 2011
9:02 pm

Great post idea. I have no clue what the Flowery brass have in mind for our O-line. I would keep Blaylock and look to upgrade internally, FA, and the upcoming draft. The impending change in CBA means there is no current salary cap and we would be ~$35 million under the past one if what I read was true. We have the dinero and the space for a massive FA arms race under most conceivable circumstances. We have the opportunity to remake our line into whatever we want…pass or run focus, even a “mixed” type line. Blaylock is young and pretty solid so if he isn’t asking for mint then keep him. Valdez should not be exposed to the practice squad ever again. Stupid taking the chance on it last year. His size and footwork should make for a possible “beast” pro-bowl caliber player if he continues to learn and progress. Maybe there are things behind the scenes we don’t know but what I saw in last preseason was impressive.

Arno

February 5th, 2011
9:11 pm

Did get your point, f21. IMO this is THE most important off-season issue. I expect Dimitroff to be decisive as he was after the Cardinals playoff loss, even if it may hurt a little in the short run.

falcon21

February 5th, 2011
9:35 pm

Agree Arno, but after the playoff loss to the Cards our O-Line has not improved, it has actually gotten weaker as far as pass protection is concerned. We still run the ball against weaker teams pretty well but against the better teams, if we can’t run than we are in trouble. We have to figue out a tweener.

D3

February 5th, 2011
10:42 pm

Just for kicks……..

Green Bay Packers — LT – Chad Clifton – 2nd rd; LG – Daryn Colledge – 2nd rd; C – Scott Wells – 7th rd; RG – Josh Sitton – 4th rd; RT – Bryan Bulaga – 1st rd

Pittsburgh Steelers — LT – Jonathan Scott – 5th rd; LG – Chris Kemeoeatu – 6th rd; C – Maurkice Pouncey – 1st rd; LG – Ramon Foster – Undrafted; RT – Flozell Adams – 2nd rd

Top 5 Teams with Total Offense
1) San Diego: LT – Marcus McNeil – 2nd rd; LG – Kris Dielman – Undrafted; C – Nick Hardwick – 3rd rd; RG – Louis Vasquez – 3rd rd; RT – Jeromey Clary – 6th rd

2) Philadelphia Eagles: LT – Jason Peters – Undrafted; LG – Tom Herremans – 4th rd; C – Mike McGlynn – 4th rd; RG – Nick Cole – Undrafted; RT – Winston Justice – 2nd rd

3) Houston Texans: LT – Duane Brown – 1st rd; LG – Wade Smith – 3rd rd; C – Chris Myers – 6th rd; RG – Antoine Caldwell – 3rd rd; RT – Eric Winston – 3rd rd

4) Indianapolis Colts: LT – Charlie Johnson – 6th rd; LG – Kyle DeVan – Undrafted; C – Jeff Saturday – Undrafted; RG – Mike Pollak – 2nd rd; RT – Ryan Diem – 4th rd

5) New York Giants: LT – David Diehl – 5th rd; LG – Rich Seubert – Undrafted; C – Shaun O’Hara – Undrafted; RG – Chris Snee – 2nd rd; RT – Kareem McKenzie – 3rd rd.

Flappin' Falcon

February 6th, 2011
12:33 am

Regardless of the regard I hold for the right guard I feel he often leaves Matt unguarded.

Paddy O

February 6th, 2011
3:41 am

Regarding the irregardless question about the O line, I think the question is irregardless due to a evidence that Leshoure will still be on the board when we draft, and if so, since irregardless of our O line FA predicament, I believe most will concur that the genuine problem is a lack of a scat back (if we draft Leshoure & keep Turner & Ovie – I’d like us to run a Y formation – both Ovie & Turner can block, which will give whomever is the LT help – which this year we did finally start doing after the 3rd game or so, which helped Baker a lot – and both Ovie & Leshoure can catch (we all know Ryan is quicksilver on getting the ball out when pressured). The first game was a toss off, because Baker was facing who? Harrison? Or another top rusher with little help. I keep praying that Billick, despite his denials, is bored as a priest announcing games vs. participating, and I really do think we are 2, maybe 3 players away from being a authentic SB threat (I do think we will sign a DE FA, unless Sidbury has really blossomed & the coaching staff wanted to really test Biermann for an entire season). I also see the honest value in signing the guy from OAK, and moving Grimes to nickel (or safety), but I also see us drafting a super fast LB – which is why I lean toward Houston or Carter after the first round. HOwever, if Leshoure is gone, and either Solder or Carimi is there, I can see us drafting them, or possibly a receiver (but to me, that is really low priority).

Paddy O

February 6th, 2011
3:42 am

PS: I also liked the benefit of using Svitek as a tight end, nice blend of blocking.

Paddy O

February 6th, 2011
3:43 am

Irregardless of my post two posts ago, I would prefer to sign all of our FA guys (especially since I have not idea how our draft kids have progressed).

Paddy O

February 6th, 2011
3:44 am

man, its late. Good night, ya’all.

Paddy O

February 6th, 2011
3:46 am

one more comment – anybody else here beginning to wonder if the Colts might be the dumbest team in the NFL? They have the best QB, they had a great trio of receivers, let 2 of the 3 go, drafted some injury prone guys, and have NEVER addressed their lack of a running game. Personally, this guy Caldwell looks like one of the biggest errors in pro football (he looks like he is watching the game through Alices’ looking glass). Nuff said.

Falcons Chic

February 6th, 2011
4:03 am

D3, thanks for the draft analysis.

Weren’t the Falcon o-line players the runners up to Madden’s all protection squad this year? That would argue for keeping them all (except Baker to my mind.) Clabo is Pro Bowl, and more than made up for the bad alignment in the 2008 playoffs against AZ. I recognize that Smitty once said, paraphrasing, Dahl & Clabo are average linemen solo, but when you put them together they surpass the sum of their parts. Roddy could be SHARING that never say never moment with a rumbling (sprinting?) Harvey Dahl for the punches he endured in the 49ers pile. (You do not cut that aggressiveness.) Blalock covered two fumbles, at least one for a TD in 2008.

Trade Baker for a pick. Even better, trade Baker to Balt for Oher — or another team’s noted LT veteran — and a low level pick from us 2012 contingent on our draft status.

hjones

February 6th, 2011
8:13 am

D3, you have provided the facts like no one else can. I will let your analysis stand. My only comment is let’s hope all of the Falcons players reach the plateau that Todd McClure stands on. His work ethic, enthusiasm, team-oriented attitude, respect of his teammates, recognition of the skills of the other players, being secure within his own skin, and cheer leader for the players should be the model for the offensive line and all others. As a group, the offensive line has been the most successful for the past three years.

BobbyDawg

February 6th, 2011
8:18 am

Mornin’ Cage — Oh well! Here we go again. I’m taking the Packers today. The distressing part is giving up the four points.

The Real Falcon

February 6th, 2011
8:26 am

No OL picked in the first round!

Big Ray

February 6th, 2011
10:45 am

D3 ,

Absolutely a great blog. I love this week’s topic and as much as I disagreed with getting Maurkice Pouncey in last year’s draft, he showed the value of a true blue blood at his position with the Steelers this season.

So, I’m much more amenable to drafting some OL again this year. In the first round? Again I have to say “no” unless somebody good falls to us. I think it was BA who made the brilliant point about Bryan Bulaga (or was that somebody else?), but then again, Bulaga’s issues were well known prior to draft day.

Hey, someone took a shot and missed (on LT, that is).

We kinda have to keep Baker until a better option shakes out somehow.

As for the free agents, I wouldn’t be surprised if we lost two out of three. I think we need to make room for Reynolds, Johnson, and Valdez.

Pass blocking has to improve.

In the meantime, Ryan wants some more receiving options, and the Pro Bowl comments were only validation of that. Better get one.

And as BA says, take a long, hard look at scatbacks. We need what can’t be taught: speed.

Big Ray

February 6th, 2011
10:47 am

P.S.

I don’t necessarily have an issue with Blalock, but I’m not overly impressed either. I’m looking for Valdez or Johnson to supplant him.

Bangkapi Ajarn

February 6th, 2011
10:53 am

D3 – damn fine digging on the OL draft position of the better offenses! I get from that the critical importance of coaching up OL prospects, and keeping them healthy. Made me look at our line with a different point of view, where the weakest link seems to be our 1st round choice, and our probowler was picked up as a freebie.

Healthy wise, I would be interested to see if our guys will do the MMA training again this offseason, and if the CBA clusterfrak will severely impact offseason efforts to minimize injuries next season (and recover from lingering injuries from the past two seasons).

Ron Choke Mexico

February 6th, 2011
11:25 am

-Just because Clabo says he wants to test the FA market, doesn’t mean he wants to leave, I say pay him, he’s the only Pro bowl lineman we have. Look he knows this is good team, so why would he want to leave if we pay him enough.
-Svitek, is a good backup, probably won’t be that expensive, so keep him.
-Dahl is the weakest link, older so let him go if you have to lose one, can’t pay them all.
-Not sure we can move Blalock to right guard, even thou everyone says it is his natural position, I’ve heard he doesn’t want to play right guard, he likes being on the left side
-Keep McClure if he wants to play, otherwise start Hawley at center. Johnson at right or left guard depending on where Blalock plays.
AS far as Baker goes, depends on whether we keep Clabo, and draft a good left tackle at 27. If Clabo goes, which we may not know in this draft, and we can get someone like Solder, then move Baker to the right side. Other wise we are stuck with Baker another year

WTF

February 6th, 2011
11:44 am

LMAO some crazy logic….let your LG walk because your LT is playing less than stellar.

WTF

February 6th, 2011
11:47 am

Dahl can walk… Mike Johnson was drafted in the 3rd for a reason.

D3

February 6th, 2011
11:50 am

Great Super Bowl Day Cage! — Yes, bittersweet because the mind wanders to what may have been, but it wasn’t meant to be. We could’ve beaten Chicago, but do we believe we could’ve beat the Steelers defense at full tilt and their starting QB back? Just saying, could you imagine a meltdown on the Super Bowl stage like the one we had in our own Sweet Home Georgia Dome? Yikes. I think that game just proved that even though we’ve definitely gotten closer, we’re still a little ways away, be it a few players, different coordinators, or different schemes. After finally letting go of the stinging and painful loss, I’m d@mn proud of what our Birds accomplished. If our players and coaches can learn from it, than it will be a positive. They should take away the fact that nothing is given to you, and the Lombardi Trophy sure as the hell ain’t, regardless of home-field advantage or regular season record or 9 Pro Bowlers. Definitely pulling for the Packers and our NFC Brethren. Sick of the d@mn Steelers.

Re: The OL Situation — Haven’t done a ton of analysis on the draft class, but I don’t see the same strength on the OL as last year. I like Gabe Carimi a lot, but if we draft him at #27 do we plug him in at LT immediately? I’d say no. So if not, than he has to play at RT. Well, wouldn’t we say that Garrett Reynolds is more ready after learning and tutoring under the master Boudreau for 2 years? When I went to Flowery Branch, it was amazing how big Reynolds is. I mean dang, the guy looks like a Giant. I really think he’ll be starting at RT this year. I’m much more confused about the guard situation. Sure would be nice to see what big Jose Valdez and supposedly one of the best OG’s to come out of the storied Crimson Tide program can do. I still believe that Blalock has more upside than Dahl.

Be back in a few………….

ymmotretsof

February 6th, 2011
1:13 pm

My take on the line is that they are just above average as lines go.It’s no secret that they struggle against the good teams and we all know that we won some big games even as they struggled. I think Ryan could improve his long game if he had more time and that starts up front. It just may be that losing some of them wouldn’t really hurt that much. Perhaps picking up some vetrens to take their place might improve things and allow the young guys more time to get their act together. I don’t know who is out there as far as free agents go but it’s not my job to know. I know that Mr.Blank seems to want this team built for the long run and for that to happen the lines on both sides of the ball need fixing. Their not bad but they aren’t great either.

Screen Pass

February 6th, 2011
1:40 pm

-List your wishful starting offensive line in 2011?

-What will the OL actually be in 2011?

I was worried about this but I’m warming up to the idea of letting the old guard go. IF we can get Gilbert/ Florida in the draft we have a possible lineup that looks like this;

RT – S. Baker (returns to home sweet home, where he belongs)
RG – M. Johnson
C – T. McClure (Hawley backup)
LG – Blaylock
LT – Valdez/ Gilbert (preseason to determine starter)

That is not a bad line at all. I would love to get a 1-2 year contract signing for a vet FA signing for depth and teaching Valdez/Gilbert. I have to look but I’m pretty sure there is at least one serviceable vet FA LT we could sign cheap to a short term deal. This would also allow us to rotate S. Baker and Valdez/ Gilbert to either side to allow for defenses using switch tactics with their speed rusher. This is actually a very versatile line that can allow switching/ rotation among the guards and tackles to find the best fit. I like it and I’m not so worried about losing the old guard any more.

falcon21

February 6th, 2011
1:41 pm

I can’t really get into this SB but my pick is GB 27-20.

Nolidge is good

February 6th, 2011
1:54 pm

Folks, it’s irrespective or regardless — not irregardless. Thus ends today’s lesson.

JB FALCON

February 6th, 2011
2:35 pm

Just checked in to get an update on the current converstion, very good stuff. I do not understand all of the uproar or concern about spelling and/or word definitions. The purpose of being here is to discuss football, mainly the Falcons. Personally I could give a pregnant rat’s behind about grammar as long as you get your point across. Proper grammar and spelling does not give you an ounce of football Nolidge. “Wud yu lik me to giv yu this here million dollars?” “Hell no, because your English sucks!” Yeah, right.

Gilbert???

February 6th, 2011
2:36 pm

No way in hades the Atlanta Falcons start an undrafted free agent practice squad guy at LT. This is the QB blindside for those who are clueless no way the health of the franchise QB will be put into the hands of a undrafted guy who scored a 14 on the wonderlic. LOL

Valdez

February 6th, 2011
2:40 pm

Maybe a backup guard maybe even a backup RT but NEVER a starting LT. Write that down.

Unca' Bob

February 6th, 2011
2:45 pm

D3,

This is one of, if not the best post you have put up. As one that has done some research in the past I know how hard you worked. What, five or six windows open, swapping back and forth while making notes on a legal pad. Not to mention the compiling facts to print, and all the while, not once using the word irregardless. You are a Master. And I thank you for it.

Everyone enjoy the Super Bowl and if you’re out and about, be responsible.

Thanks to our Atlanta Falcons for a real fun ride this year. We will arrive. I don’t know when, but I can see it coming. This ain’t your Daddy’s Oldsmobile.

Unca' Bob

February 6th, 2011
2:49 pm

PS- Nolidge is fitting. Noreading . Noresearch, etc. Etal is reserved for nouns, but I wouldn’t know a noun from a person, place, or thing.

Screen Pass

February 6th, 2011
3:00 pm

“No way in hades the Atlanta Falcons start an undrafted free agent practice squad guy at LT. This is the QB blindside for those who are clueless no way the health of the franchise QB will be put into the hands of a undrafted guy who scored a 14 on the wonderlic. LOL” – Gilbert?

Last time I checked the Iggles smoked our arses like purple indica and they start an undrafted LT;

“2) Philadelphia Eagles: LT – Jason Peters – Undrafted” – D3

Reading comprehension ftw. If you look there are plenty of 5th round and higher picks starting at LT for the 5 best offense stats teams of this year. Gilbert will go 1st – 3rd round so he would be far less of a reach than those other guys. If you ever learn to read, you will one day notice I suggested a 1/2 year vet FA signing to cover the “learning” years. Maybe you have a link to the site showing Gilbert scoring a 14 on the Wonderlic or is that 13 points higher a task than you are capable of?

Unca' Bob

February 6th, 2011
3:11 pm

Let’s not forget to mention the fact our RT & RG are both UDFA and McClure was taken in the 7th round draft in ‘99.

And as someone stated earlier, our Line was rated as one of the best in the NFL by John Madden and that’s good enough for me.

Big Ray

February 6th, 2011
3:23 pm

LOL….The Cage is no place to arrive in without humility.

If you don’t come with it, you’ll damn sure leave with it.

And knowing BA , he purposely typed the word “irregardless.”

The lesson endeth when you learn some humility. Until then…

Big Ray

February 6th, 2011
3:23 pm

Screen Pass , Unca Bob , right on…

JJ

February 6th, 2011
3:40 pm

IRREGARDLESS, great post D3. Have no fav/dis of these 2 teams except the rapist. I wonder why we have not heard of a civil suit from this young girl? I have a step kid her age and he would not be walking on this side of earth if he forced her into a bathroom. JMHO, this creep should be serving 20 to life. GO PACK and of all the fans on this site this yr, they get my vote for most decent.

D3, maybe we can have a open vote of competing fans on our blog? For me, saints – worst, GBay – best.

Bitter sweet day but hope everyone enjoys this day!!!