Falcons offensive line decimated by injuries

Joe Hawley and two other linemen were injured Sunday in Atlanta's loss in Minnesota.

The Falcons offensive line has been an issue for a couple of years. It all started when Harvey Dahl was released following the 2010 season. Dahl had been a dependable starter for three seasons when the Falcons allowed him to walk away to the Rams as a free agent.

Then after the 2012 season, veteran center Todd McClure was not brought back. He retired, even though he really didn’t want to. And Tyson Clabo was released, making room for young draft picks that eventually did not work out.

Last year was a bad game of musical chairs on the line of scrimmage, as injuries decimated the line. And then in training camp, left tackle Sam Baker was lost for the season with an injury.

But nothing may be worse than this disaster. The Falcons lost three offensive linemen Sunday in the 41-28 loss to the Vikings.

Veteran Justin Blalock, who has started every single game at left guard since 2008, had a back issue and left in the second quarter.

Then it was Lamar Holmes, the right tackle, who left with a foot injury. He reportedly was walking with a boot on his foot after the game.

And the most crushing blow was when center Joe Hawley was hurt and carted off the field. Hawley was walking around on crutches after the game and will have a MRI Monday. It’s some sort of leg injury, and Hawley was holding his knee so you have to wonder if there is any ligament damage.

Coach Mike Smith did not give reporters any updates on the injured linemen after the game.

With James Stone and Ryan Schraeder inactive for the game, the Falcons had to turn to tight end Levine Toilolo to play right tackle. Gabe Carimi had replaced Holmes, while Peter Konz had replaced Blalock but switched to center after Hawley was injured. Obviously, we may have to wait until Wednesday to learn more about the injured Falcons linemen. If there is something serious – i.e. season-ending – wrong with Hawley we may find out before mid-week.

The Falcons may be forced to having Stone at center next week, with Schraeder or Carimi at tackle and either Carimi or Konz at guard. We’ll have to see which of the three injured players will be back in the game against the Giants.

Either way, the depth on the offensive line took a huge hit with the injuries Sunday. We’ll see if the Falcons try to bring in any help this week from the free agent market to provide deph.

The Falcons lost the game to Minnesota by 13 points mainly because of a bad defensive performance. But there is no doubt the shuffling on the offensive line did not help matters. For the Falcons to recover as they face a very tough stretch (games against the Giants, Bear and Ravens before they head to London to play the Lions), the offensive line needs some good news this week on the injury front.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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