Our O-line isn't awesome. As I suspected going into the season, the run blocking would take a hit because we are facing much tougher fronts than we did last year.
But the pass protection has been outstanding this year. Yes, Ryan's quick release and brain certainly helps that. But it's not like he's been pressured all that much this year. Again, outside the Dolphins and Cowboys games, Ryan has been virtually untouched.
And IMO, to say that the O-line has "very little" to do with that isn't being fair.
I'm not going to put this unit up in the pantheon with recent Giants lines or the Chiefs lines of a few years back by any means, but this is a good unit. I agree with anyone that says there is room for improvement, again all off-season RobertAP, I was right with you about believing that getting a dominant RT could really skyrocket this unit into elite status. But I'd disagree with anyone that is insinuating or outright saying that the line is what is "holding back" our offense.
What is holding back this offense is having a 2nd year QB among other things. There is no bigger Matt Ryan fan in this fanbase than myself, and I can honestly say I believe that to be a fact. But he's still a young QB that is prone to making the mistakes that young QBs tend to make. He makes a lot less of them than most QBs at a comparable point in his career, but only when he reaches his 5th or 6th years am I personally going to be expecting perfection from him.
Can the line improve? Absolutely. IMHO, if the Falcons can find a Steve Hutchinson/Alan Faneca at LG and/or a Kareem McKenzie/Jon Runyan at RT, then the line will probably skyrocket up into the elite units in the league. BUt I disagree with anyone that says this line is untalented. I had that opinion in the off-season.
Sam Baker IMO is a very good pass protector. He hasn't quite cracked Tony Boselli's status yet, but I'm sure I wouldn't get past my 2nd hand when I counted better pass protecting LTs in this league. The problem with Baker is that he's not a good run blocker. He's effective and can get good position, but he's not a guy that can push the pile. And I don't think he'll ever be that, because he wasn't that type of player at USC, and that's primarily why I and many other observers saw him as a borderline 1st round pick.
What he needs to off-set that less than stellar run blocking IMO is to have a really good LG. I don't think Blalock is that player, and IMO he's the weakest link up front. Blalock isn't bad, but I've been disappointed with his progress thus far, and my expectation that he would be a near Pro Bowl guard within 3-4 years in this league doesn't look like it will come true.
Todd McClure is lambasted by folks, IMHO based off ignorance more than anything else. It's no secret that McClure has his issues against good 3-4 nose tackles. But what most people don't understand because I believe them ignorant because they don't watch other teams play, is that most centers in this league have trouble with good 3-4 nose tackles. He had his issues with Vince Wilfork (arguably the best 3-4 nose tackle in the league) and Jay Ratliff (arguably the most underrated 3-4 nose tackle in the league), and that's really about it. But from what I saw, outside 1 or 2 plays vs. the Patriots, McClure did a much better job vs. Wilfork than I think anybody would have expected.
Can the Falcons upgrade over McClure? Absolutely. When asked, I have said this exact same sentiment for a number of years. But do they need to? Not really. Not in the NFC. In the AFC, there is much greater turnover at center because of the prevalence of 3-4 teams and players like Wilfork, so having a big physical 310-pound center that can block on an island is much more important. But in the NFC, it's not that important. Now, if Bill Cowher becomes the head coach of the Panthers next year, then I think it would become more important to try and replace McClure. But until we get a lot more than four 3-4 teams in the NFC, I'm going to be able to sleep at night with Todd McClure as the starter for another year or two.
Harvey Dahl's penalties irk me, but I think he's a good player. He's got more substance than you give him credit RobertAP. He's not the next Chris Snee or Will Shields, but he's better than you give him credit for. He's far from a liability despite questionable play last week. I've gone a complete 180 on Dahl from 6 months ago, because I thought then he was the weakest link, but right now he's no worse than our 3rd best blocker. Yeah, he might be a bit more attitude than substance, but he's arguably got the most attitude in the entire league, that's not really a bad thing.
As for Clabo, he's one of my favorite Falcons, and I think deservedly so. It's not always pretty, but hte guy is consistent and definitely our best two-way blocker. To me, he has stepped very nicely into Todd Weiner's shoes at RT. I know Weiner wasn't our most popular linemen during his tenure here, but I thought the guy was steady and consistent and as they always say, simply gets the job done. When we signed Weiner, I thought he was going to be another Dan Reeves FA bust (like Greg Bishop), but he proved me wrong. And I thought last year when Weiner was asked to play more LT, he was going to struggle, but he proved me wrong, and arguably outplayed Baker last year. Clabo has that same ability, that when you doubt him, he's going to prove you wrong. And throw in the added benefit that he can play any position you ask him (except maybe center), the guy is a rock.
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.