Although this isn't likely to surprise anyone, I have some breaking news: the Falcons offensive line has been terrible.
In fact, they're now bordering on Bears-caliber failings: in just three games, the O-line has allowed 13 sacks and 21 QB hits on Matt Ryan. And if you've been watching the games as I have, then you'll easily notice that on many such plays Ryan isn't even given the slightest chance in hell to make a play.
When Ryan is knocked to the turf on almost every drop back, you really have to consider whether this offensive line is keeping the explosiveness out of Atlanta. Rather, should the blame fall on someone higher up?
Now, the entire offensive line has struggled. However, a few players have stood out rather noticeably among others. Mike Smith had this to say on that very subject:
There's competition at all spots. We'll do it at the offensive line and we'll let that play out during the week. Best guys will play
Ok, so they're starting to try out other options. That's never a bad thing. Garrett Reynolds has been atrocious, and third-round draft pick Mike Johnson just has to be itching for a shot at a starting gig. Though Sam Baker hasn't been much better, I have to believe that the organization would still rather stick with him over Will Svitek.
What's even more interesting, however, is what Smith had to say regarding improvement going forward:
(Protecting Matt Ryan) is something that we have to look at schematically first, and then the second thing you have to look at is the personnel.
Notice he mentioned schematics before the players. If you read into that statement, you realize that Smitty is putting more weight upon the failings of coaches before the failings of certain players.
Consider how many times the Falcons went to the no-huddle offense against Tampa Bay. Once was in the second quarter, and that resulted in a field goal. Then, we saw absolutely nothing of the no-huddle until the fourth quarter, in which an entire ten points were scored.
With it becoming painfully obvious the Falcons need to revamp their offensive gameplan, at what point does the blame shift from the players to the coaching staff? Sure, Garrett Reynolds has struggled mightily. The Falcons certainly don't have the most talented line in the league. But if every "explosive" passing play comes on third-and-long, you can't expect to find much success. If a coordinator cannot use his players effectively, then how can it be said that he's doing his job?
Consider the rare first-down passing play to Julio Jones that went for 49 yards in the fourth quarter and led to a quick score. Once the offense transitioned to the no-huddle, all of a sudden the linemen remembered how to block. Can this really be coincidence? Call me cynical, but I don't see any coincidences.
The Falcons have disappointed early on in this young 2011 season. However should the struggles continue, heads will roll. I would have to count our offensive coordinator among the first.
For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic.