Atlanta Falcons Continue to Short Change the Offensive Line, Sign Two Guards

Atlanta Falcons, James Carpenter (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Atlanta Falcons, James Carpenter (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

Despite the importance of the offense line, Atlanta Falcons general manager continues to short change an important position. This is evident by the team agreeing in principle to sign two bargain basement guards.

The Atlanta Falcons made their first forray into the 2019 free agent period by signing two offensive guards. The team agreed in principle to guards Chris Carpenter and Jamon Brown. Carpenter spent last season playing for the New York Jets. Brown played for the New York Giants last year.

The signings were made possible by star quarterback Matt Ryan adjusting his contract. Ryan and the team converted 8.75 million dollars of his base salary into a signing bonus. The move provides 7 million dollars in cap space for the team. This lowers Ryan’s cap number from 22.8 million to 15.8 million for the 2019 season. Prior to the contract adjustment, the Falcons were slated to have around ten million dollars in cap space, just barely more than the 8.1 million dollars required to sign this year’s draft class. James Parks of 24/7 Sports has a good piece on Ryan’s contract adjustment, that can be found by clicking the link here.

Field Yates of ESPN broke the news via Twitter:

James Carpenter is a 29-year-old veteran offensive lineman. He stands at 6’5″ and weighs 321 pounds. Prior to playing for the New York Jets, Carpenter played for the Seattle Seahawks, who drafted him at Pick number 25, in the first round of the 2011 draft. He was a member of the Seahawks during the 2013 and 2014 seasons, in which Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn was the defensive coordinator. This means Quin should be very familiar with Carpenter’s skill level and work ethic.

James Carpenter is entering his ninth NFL season. He played his college ball at the University of Alabama. He has started 97 of the 103 games, that he has played in during his career. Last season, Carpenter started ten games for the New York Jets. He missed six games due to a shoulder injury and ultimately was placed on injured reserve, thus ending his season.

James Carpenter played 621 snaps last season, all at left guard. He allowed Jets quarterbacks to be pressured 18 times. 13 of those pressures were hurries. He allowed his quarterback to be hit four times, but impressively gave up just one sack. This earned James Carpenter a respectable pass blocking grade of 71.9 by Pro Football Focus. As a run blocker, Carpenter did not fare nearly as well. He earned a grade of just 51.4 from his blocking in the running game. Overall PFF gave him a grade of just 56.3. This ranks him as the number 54 guard in the NFL. If I were handing out letter grades, he would receive a D for last season’s performance. His 2018 grade is far below his career high grade of 83.4 in 2015. James also committed three penalties last season.

Jamon Brown is a young lineman, as he is just 25 years old. Prior to playing for the New York Giants, he was drafted in the third round by the Saint Louis Rams, number 72 overall, prior to the team moving to Los Angeles. He was released by the Rams last season, after they traded for defensive end Dantae Fowler Jr, and was signed by New York. He played for the University of Louisville in college. Brown is a much bigger guard that the Falcons typically carry in the zone blocking scheme, standing at 6’5 and weighing in at 340 pounds.

Career wise, Jamon Brown has started 38 of the 50 games that he has appeared in. Last season Brown played in six games for the Rams, starting none. After being waived and signed by the Giants, Brown started the team’s final eight games. Overall Jamon played 509 snaps last year. He committed a concerning eight penalties during the 2018 campaign. He allowed his quarterbacks to be pressured a whopping 19 times, despite the fact that he started just half the season. 12 of those pressures resulted in quarterback hurries and he allowed the quarterback to be hit 4 times. He also allowed three sacks. Pro Football Focus gave Brown a grade of just 53.5 as a pass blocker. He didn’t fare much better in the run game, grading just 54.1. Overall he was given a grade of only 50.7 out of a possible 99.9. I would consider that a D- performance.

The signings of Carpenter and Brown, give the Atlanta Falcons 10 offensive linemen under contract. This now strongly decreases the odds that the club will draft an offensive lineman in the first three rounds of the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft. This is concerning because the team seems to be adverse to putting major resources into the all important position of offensive line. General manager Thomas Dimitroff just doesn’t seem to understand the importance of protecting Matt Ryan, his 150 million dollar quarterback. Despite the number of high level skill players on the Falcons roster, the offense will never reach its full potential if the blocking up front is sub-par.

The Atlanta Falcons continue to search the scrap heap for answers on the offensive side of the trenches. This has not worked out in their favor in recent years. It’s no coincidence that the two lineman Atlanta has invested the most in, Jake Mathews and Alex Mack, are the pillars of the offensive line. They are the only two consistently high performers at the position as well as the only two Pro Bowl players on the Atlanta offensive line.

Related Story. Five Free Agent Moves for the Atlanta Falcons. light

The positive aspect of these moves is that the signing of two guys with more size at 321 and 340 pounds, may be signifying the team moving away from a zone blocking only scheme. Atlanta has moved the ball well from 20 yard line to 20 yard line in the zone blocking scheme, but have struggled in the red zone, as well as in short yardage running situations. While I certainly do not agree with continuing to fix the offensive line on the cheap, all we can do is hope that this season is different and the moves work out as planned. I definitely have my doubts.

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