clear
Wednesday May 6th, 2015 9:36AM

Falcons looking to settle their offensive line

By The Associated Press
FLOWERY BRANCH -- Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter says he's not too concerned about the recent struggles of his offensive line.

Koetter believes Atlanta, which visits Baltimore for a preseason game on Thursday, still has enough time to settle on a starting right tackle and decide who fills backup jobs before the season opener Sept. 8 at New Orleans.

Those moves will help determine if quarterback Matt Ryan, tight end Tony Gonzalez, running back Steven Jackson and receivers Julio Jones have the time and space needed to push the offense.

"We have a lot of good players on offense," Koetter said. "When we get everybody firing on the same cylinders, we're going to be tough to beat."

Atlanta went 13-3 and advanced to the NFC title game last season in large part because Ryan and his receivers were tough to stop.

Ryan, Gonzalez and Jones were invited to the Pro Bowl, and White became only the fifth NFL receiver with at least three straight 90-catch, 1,200-yard seasons.

Playmakers, though, can only do so much if the line isn't built to last, but Koetter promises the Falcons will make the necessary adjustments once they start game-planning for the Saints.

"You're trying to exploit our good matchups and trying to give help to the guys who need help," Koetter said. "We have a whole bunch of different ways where we give certain guys help from week to week. That will never change."

Atlanta's offensive line is still in flux with the right tackle job still an open competition and Peter Konz a first-year starting center.

Losing Mike Johnson last week to a season-ending ankle injury has thrust Lamar Holmes and undrafted rookie Ryan Schraeder into an open competition for the right tackle job.

Perhaps last week's preseason loss against Cincinnati wasn't terribly alarming. The Falcons are still essentially replacing Todd McClure, who retired after 13 years as starting center, and right tackle Tyson Clabo, who was released to clear salary cap space.

"There's going to be change every year in the NFL," Koetter said. "We've got some new guys at some new positions. We're moving some guys around. The Mike Johnson injury triggers some moves, but you couldn't ask for a harder working group of guys. For the new guys, these preseason games are just invaluable experience."

Offensive line coach Pat Hill is mixing and matching personnel to help Koetter and head coach Mike Smith decide which nine players will make the 53-man roster and which seven will be active on game day.

Four of the starting jobs are set with Konz, left guard Justin Blalock, left tackle Sam Baker and right guard Garrett Reynolds. Whoever loses the right tackle competition will back up that spot and Baker's spot.

There's also the need to build a unified line, a sum of moving parts that works as one.

"You have to make split-second decisions, there's got to be proper calls and everyone's got to be on the same page," Hill said. "We're getting better working together as a group, but we keep shifting guys in and out moving guys to different positions. I think that's going to help us down the road."

Hill says his young players are making progress in recognizing different looks from the defense. The coaches are flooding them with information every day on the film room and on the field.

"We had a blitz period yesterday with about five or six coverages and eight (defenders) coming," Hill said. "We might only see that once a game. We might not see it for three weeks, but from a mental standpoint we're progressing daily. It's a good thing is we have three more weeks."

Energizing the running game is another point of emphasis.

The Falcons finished 27th in rushing last year, but Koetter believes the offseason signing of the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Jackson, the NFL's career active leading rusher, could work wonders.

"He's just such a complete back, and his body of work in the NFL bears that out," Koetter said. "Steven does everything well. He runs the ball well, he catches the ball out of the backfield, he's good in the screen game and he's excellent in protection."
© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Bartus, Icemen shuts out Gwinnett
Garrett Bartus pitched a 42 save shutout, as the Evansville IceMen topped the Gwinnett Gladiators on a New year
10:23PM ( 1 year ago )
Gator Bowl Preview Capsule
A rematch of last year's Capital One Bowl, which Georgia won 45-31 in Orlando.
8:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Millsap's 34 leads Hawks past Celtics
Paul Millsap had season highs with 34 points and 15 rebounds as the Hawks rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 92-91 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday afternoon.
7:44PM ( 1 year ago )
Sports
Falcons fire offensive, defensive line coaches
The Atlanta Falcons have fired defensive line coach Ray Hamilton and offensive line coaches Pat Hill and Paul Dunn.
7:02PM ( 1 year ago )
Best, worst of Falcons' 4-12 season
Best Game: They'd been eliminated from playoff contention previous week vs. New Orleans, but the Falcons showed some heart with Dec. 1 overtime victory over Bills in Toronto.
6:21PM ( 1 year ago )
Gonzalez's career ends with another Falcons loss
Tony Gonzalez is ready for the next chapter of his life.
9:47PM ( 1 year ago )
Professional Sports
Girls soccer: Lady War Eagles make history, storm into first ever quarterfinals
Mark Dunn keeps watching his retirement drift further and further away. And the Chestatee girls soccer coach is just fine with that...
2:07PM ( 4 hours from now )
Girls soccer: Lady Wolves roll into 3rd round; St. Pius up next (VIDEO)
Buford girls soccer coach Crystal Fowler wanted to see some variety from her offense Tuesday in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs...
12:45PM ( 3 hours from now )
Baseball: Area teams head to 2nd round with momentum
Area teams caught some big breaks, others made their own, and one, Jackson County, made history in the first round of the state baseball playoffs...
12:31PM ( 2 hours from now )
Hawks fight back, knot up series with Wizards, 1-1
DeMarre Carroll scored 22 points, Kyle Korver bounced back from a miserable first half and the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks held off the Washington Wizards 106-90 on Tuesday night, taking advantage of John Wall's absence to even the Eastern Conference semifinals at one game apiece.
10:40AM ( 1 hour from now )
LaMance victorious in Lavonia FASTRAK Pro Late Models
Steve “Hot Rod” LaMance got the month of May off to a strong start Friday night. The veteran dirt Late Model pilot drove to the lead in the FASTRAK Pro Late Model feature at Lavonia Speedway in Lavonia, GA, and went on to score the victory.
8:00AM ( 1 hour ago )