Atlanta Falcons: Top 5 Offensive Line in Football?


The Atlanta Falcons have completely transformed their offensive line under OC Kyle Shanahan. However, do the Atlanta Falcons boast a Top 5 unit in the NFL?

Given what we saw during the preseason, it’s almost impossible to understand how quickly the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive line has become one of the best in the NFL. Pro Football Focus has been one of the front-runners in understanding the Atlanta Falcons’ success offensively in 2015 with their thorough analysis of the offensive line.

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According to Khaled Elsayed of Pro Football Focus, he has the Atlanta Falcons as the number one offensive line unit in football entering Week 5. I knew that what we were seeing out of our tackles LT Jake Matthews and RT Ryan Schraeder in the first two weeks that something special was brewing in Flowery Branch with OC Kyle Shanahan’s highly discussed zone blocking scheme.

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However, I had no idea that the Atlanta Falcons would go from a bottom four unit in football up front in 2015 to the apex of all-around blocking in 2015. I think the game that forever changed our perception of the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive line was in Week 3 against the Dallas Cowboys.

Dallas had the best offensive line in football in 2014. With players like LT Tyron Smith, C Travis Frederick, and RG Zack Martin, it’s easy to see why. Dallas is still a Top 5 unit, ranking 4th this week, as the Cowboys are number seven in pass protection and number one in run blocking. It’s the number eleven spot in penalties that’s hurting them.

Elsayed has the following teams in the Top 5: 1. Atlanta Falcons (4th in pass protection, 2nd in run blocking, 6th in penalties), 2. Carolina Panthers (5th, 6th, 1st), 3. Cleveland Browns (3rd, T-4th, 25th [so Cleveland there]), 4. Dallas Cowboys (7th, 1st, 11th), and 5. Oakland Raiders (2nd, 14th, 16th).

Sep 27, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Atlanta Falcons tackle Jake Matthews (70) in action against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

If you would have asked me entering Week 5 who the Top 5 units up front in football were, I would have said these five teams in no particular order: Atlanta, Cincinnati, Dallas, Green Bay, and Oakland (QB Derek Carr is looking pretty good in the Silver and Black).

It seems that LT Jake Matthews is playing at a Pro Bowl level in 2015. Perhaps after a baptism by fire rookie season at LT, he’s coming into form as a second-year player. PFF gave him a +5.6 rating. Elsayed considers C Mike Person “a revelation”, RG Chris Chester as “a tremendous free agent pickup” and LG Andy Levitre “has fit in seamlessly”. The only offensive lineman to receive a negative grade in Week 4 for Atlanta was RT Ryan Schraeder (-0.1), only because he had to play against J.J. Watt.

Even amidst all the turmoil up front in training camp and the preseason, I felt confident that the tackles would do fine in 2015. My graves concerns for the 2015 Atlanta Falcons was coming from the interior. That Miami Dolphins game in Preseason Week 3 was tough to watch! I can’t believe that’s the same ‘Phins team that got HC Joe Philbin and DC Kevin Coyle the boot heading into their bye Week 5.

HC Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff made several great under the radar signings in free agency. Perhaps it was giving C Mike Person an opportunity to start that’s given the interior some bite. When your running back hands your center the football to spike it after a touchdown run, you know this team has great cohesiveness.

I could tell that Coach Quinn and TD liked Person a ton, but didn’t know if he was a guard or a center. Now that he’s got the snapping down, he’s playing great anchoring the offensive line at center.

Where I think the offensive line went from a bottom four team in the NFL to the best entering Week 5 was at guard. Oddly enough, I thought guard was the best position on the 2014 offensive line with LG Justin Blalock and RG Jon Asamoah. Blalock didn’t survive cuts entering free agency and opted to retire. Asamoah dealt with a hip injury all preseason and went on season-ending IR before Week 1.

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Bringing in Chris Chester provided Atlanta with a player that had familiarity with how Shanahan likes to run the ZBS from their time together in Washington. Trading for Andy Levitre gave the Atlanta Falcons a player who doesn’t miss starts and is flexible enough to play well in both an MBS or a ZBS.

The Shanahan ZBS gave this once-porous unit direction. The Tackles gave it hope. The Guards gave it legitimacy. The improved play of Mike Person at center made this a dangerous front five. If the Atlanta Falcons can run the football as well as they have thrown it in the Matt Ryan Era, this will be a tough football team to beat any given Sunday.

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