Coming into the season, the Falcons offensive line was considered to be the strength of the team. However, through the first few weeks, I don’t think it’s an overreaction to say it was the most disappointing facet of a struggling offense.
The defense propelled the club to a 2-0 start, but the warts showed against the Jaguars and Lions. Blame was cast on Arthur Smith, Desmond Ridder, and the line; all were deserving of a share.
Expectations are an important factor in all of this, though. If fans or analysts expected Ridder to come out and look like a season veteran in Week 3 and 4 of the season, that’s on them. He performed poorly but not egregiously below what were reasonable expectations.
I say the Falcons’ offensive line was the biggest disappointment because of expectations. I, and many others, expected them to be part of the solution, not the problem. That’s changed in recent weeks.
It’s not a coincidence that the offense as a whole has begun to find its footing as the line finds its groove. The big uglies up front have kept Desmond Ridder clean, done all they can against loaded boxes in the run game, and have dramatically improved the quality of their play.
Though I don’t know if they’re in this conversation of elite groups, PFF believes they’re a top 3 unit in football.
3. ATLANTA FALCONS (UP 2)
Projected Week 8 starters:
LT Jake Matthews
LG Matthew Bergeron
C Drew Dalman
RG Chris Lindstrom
RT Kaleb McGary
- While the Falcons’ offensive line allowed just seven pressures against Tampa Bay, four were charged to right tackle Kaleb McGary.
- Drew Dalman’s 90.1 run-blocking grade leads all centers in the NFL in 2023.
Best player: Chris Lindstrom
- Lindstrom was the NFL’s highest-graded offensive lineman in Week 7, with a 92.1 overall mark.
Jake Matthews’ struggles in the run game and Kaleb McGary’s in pass protection were glaring issues in the early parts of the season. Though they’re never going to be great in those areas of the game, they’ve looked better of late. Chris Lindstrom has rounded into form quickly, reminding everyone he’s one of the best guards in football.
Matthew Bergeron has experienced typical rookie struggles but has also looked better of late. Drew Dalman leaves a bit to be desired in pass sets but looks incredible in the run game, constantly making difficult blocks look effortless. His athleticism shines through in that facet.
After a troubling start to the season, the Falcons offensive line has bounced back in recent weeks. It’s part of the reason for Desmond Ridder’s improvements in the passing game. With time and a clean pocket, Atlanta’s quarterback has shown glimpses of being an NFL-caliber quarterback.
Photographer: Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire