The Interior Line: a further analysis

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The interior offensive line this year was a mixed bag-leaning well towards the negative side of things. On one hand, Justin Blalock played better than average and proved to be our best offensive lineman. However, having a slightly above average guard acting as the cornerstone of the interior isn’t going to keep Matt Ryan on his feet, or create holes for Jacquizz Rodgers or Steven Jackson, as last year showed us over and over again. Peter Konz also proved to continue to liable whether he is starting at the guard or center position- as he struggled until losing his job to Joe Hawley in week 11. In the off-season, Atlanta seemingly took baby steps forward by releasing guard Garret Reynolds, who you may recognize as the pylon wearing the red #75 uniform last season. Bringing in Gabe Carimi, a low-risk/high-reward option who will be reunited with Mike Tice, who can coach Carimi into shedding the bust-label he’s earned since falling flat since being drafted 29th overall by the Chicago Bears. While Carimi has typically played Tackle, the position be was drafted to play, it would be unsurprising to see him kicked into the interior if Atlanta chooses to move Baker to the right side, and take Greg Robinsion or Jake Matthews with the #6 selection in this year’s draft. The need for talent at the guard and center position isn’t as high as for the tackle positions (In my opinion, Ryan won’t survive a second year with Lamar Holmes starting at either position) the interior certainly needs to be addressed the off-season. It is time to take a look at the options both in the free-agency and draft to improve the run and pass game.

Free-Agency

It would be a beautiful thing to see Alex Mack wearing the Falcons’ red and black next season, but I can’t imagine it happening. A more likely scenario is Saints’ free agent Brain De La Peunte, over has missed no time to injury over the last three season and has been an extremely efficient in the pass game. He has been inconsistent in the run game however, playing exceptionally well in 2012, while not as impressive his 2011 and 2013 seasons. De La Puente should be primary target for Atlanta, stealing a division rival’s players always has the advantage of weakening the other teams’ positions while bolstering your own, and Mike Tice could certainly improve his run game. Even if he can’t, The Falcon’s offense is spear-headed by Matt Ryan and the passing attack, the priority should be keeping him upright and letting him push the ball down field, rather than emphasizing the rushing game. This is not to say that run-blocking should be ignored, but rather the health of Matt Ryan is critical to the franchise, and needs to be prioritized. Run-blocking could be addressed by signing guard. Jon Asamoah is, other than teammate Geoff Schwartz, the jewel of the free-agent guard class. Yes, he was benched last season, but to no fault of his own after a shoulder injury led to the emergence of Schwartz, which is little fault of his own. Asamoah is well-rounded, and could prove to the difference maker, potentially replacing Reynolds, who Dimitroff hinted was big part of the reason that Konz failed at center. The signing of Asamoah could give us a line with Asamoah and Blalock starting at the guard positions and Konz kicking it back inside. While on paper, this may not look ideal, I am optimistic it could work, especially if Tice is the coach Dimitroff believes him to be, and Reynolds was horrible enough to affect Konz’s performance. The trenches are a need, and as a whole I imagine the interior to be addressed in the free-agency rather than the draft, especially with how well previous offensive line draft picks have performed relative to where they were selected. Nonetheless, Dimitroff’s draft strategy is unpredictable, and there is no guarantee the Falcons can address either interior position in the free agency. So it does no harm to look into these options.