Falcons' OL shredded by Miami pass rush

How can the Falcons protect Matt Ryan with a mediocre offensive line?

There was an inkling of what could happen when the Falcons offensive line – a unit with question marks about personnel, depth and its grasp of a new scheme – played a stout Miami defensive front on Saturday. No one expected mediocrity to be the high point.

The Dolphins’ pass rush ate up Atlanta’s offensive line as if it was upset it missed a Thanksgiving meal. Matt Ryan and T.J Yates were sacked a combined six times. If that figure doesn’t intimidate, listen to more: Ryan threw seven passes and connected on just three. He was sacked three times too. How well do you thing the offensive line grades will be when the Falcons’ starting quarterback was sacked as often as he completed a pass?

It’s hard to imagine anyone enjoying the flight from South Florida to Atlanta Saturday night. The offensive line might try to find a hiding spot. Somewhere there’s a joke there involving the line’s inability to hide either Ryan or Yates from a vicious attack.

Bad news started for the Falcons on their first drive. Tevin Coleman’s first run (Atlanta’s first play from scrimmage) went for negative yardage. Tony Moeaki’s false start moved the team back. Then Ryan was mauled by Earl Mitchell on the second play from scrimmage.

James Stone had big trouble slowing Mitchell, who just push Stone back and wrapped Ryan up from behind for a 4-yard loss.

Two drives later, Jake Matthews let Olivier Vernon loose and onto Ryan. Vernon bent Ryan over, but couldn’t sack him. But he slowed Ryan down enough for Jelani Jenkins to come in from the middle of Miami’s defense and hit Ryan hard.

Ryan felt heat from both defensive ends before he was pulled down for the third time. Cameron Wake blew by Ryan Schraeder and chased Ryan before enveloping the Falcons’ passer.

If there can be any solace taken by the offensive line, only one of Yates’ three sacks should be attributed to the unit. Yates’ first sack was a coverage sack, and his second was the result of a blitz that wasn’t picked up well by running back Terron Ward.

Defensive tackle Anthony Johnson was bounced around the Falcons line before Valerian Ume-Ezeoke let him pass quickly and get Yates.

When Ryan was in the game he had few passing lanes and very little time to throw. Pressure did come from the outside, but a good portion of the offensive line’s problems came because there was an aggressive push from the interior of Miami’s defense.

Atlanta’s line took a step backward on Saturday. The sacks in the passing game speak for themselves, and with Falcons running backs averaging just 2.1 yards per carry, there’s a lot to be worried about. Not to mention, backup tackle Tyler Polumbus left the game with a knee injury.

With one week left before the regular season begins, Atlanta has more questions than answers about the big boys up front.


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