The Atlanta Falcons need offensive linemen. Note there that I wrote linemen, with an e – not lineman, as in just one.
They do need more than one, actually. They need to build up the side of the line of scrimmage that was largely responsible for the 4-12 record last season.
The Falcons must protect the franchise, quarterback Matt Ryan.
They didn’t do a very good job in that department last year. Atlanta allowed 44 sacks, the 10th highest total in the NFL. Ryan was hit 100 times, which was the fifth-most allowed in the league.
So what went wrong? Well, Sam Baker started only four games at left tackle due to injury. Garrett Reynolds was a disaster at right guard. The right tackle spot was shared by three people – Lamar Holmes, Jeremy Trueblood and Ryan Schrader – who struggled. And Peter Konz was so bad as the new starting center he was replaced by Joe Hawley in the 10th game of the season.
The Falcons believe Hawley can take over at center and do well. They brought in free agent Jon Asamoah from Kansas City to take over at right guard. Gabe Carimi is also new. He’ll fight for playing time at guard and center, but don’t expect more than a backup role for Carimi.
But they have yet to address the issue at right tackle. There’s no way they can go with that trio again. So the Falcons must get a new lineman (or two) in this week’s NFL Draft.
There are three main tackles that might be available: Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews, Auburn’s Greg Robinson and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan.
Do the Falcons stick at six and let one of those linemen slide to them? Or with the rumors all three could be gone by the time Atlanta makes its selection, could they instead decide to trade up a spot or two and try to make sure they are in position to draft one of the top three?
Of course, if the Falcons decide they can’t live without South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, they may have to wait until the third or fourth round to get another offensive lineman. Is that smart to wait on, especially considering the need for someone to step in and play immediately? And should we even trust general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who has not done well the last few years drafting at this position?
This is just not a position the Falcons can ignore. If they don’t get an offensive lineman with their first pick at six, they could be facing another preseason of banking on a player that has yet to show he can perform at a high level. With protecting Ryan the primary objective and considering how many times he was touched last year by menacing defensive players, is that wise to take that gamble?
No, it wouldn’t be smart. If they trade up to get Clowney, they’ll likely have to give up their second round pick this year. So they wouldn’t pick again until the third round. That would probably mean they would pass on the top ten offensive linemen in this draft.
Sure, Clowney is tempting. He may be a star. But the Falcons are desperate on the offensive line, and when you have the sixth pick in the first round in a year where there could be a franchise offensive lineman available, you simply have to do the right thing and avoid the temptation.
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