Falcons rookie offensive linemen struggle against stout Bucs front

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The Falcons put up 100 yards on the ground in the first half of their home loss to the Buccaneers, but the offense fell apart in the second half, poor offensive line play being one of the main catalysts. Matt Ryan essentially had no time to throw or nobody to throw it to; the veteran quarterback was pressured on 18 dropbacks on Sunday — 38% of total dropbacks and sixth-most of all quarterbacks this week. 

It is nearly impossible to win games with such a porous offensive line, and the Falcons are no exception. Atlanta’s offensive line struggles have been well documented all year; in fact, they’ve been the butt-end of many jokes. It isn’t for lack of effort, though. The Falcons line issues are talent and execution-based rather than incompetence. The most prominent question marks around the group surround the younger guys — Jalen Mayfield, Matt Hennessy, Drew Dalman, and Kaleb McGary.

The interior guys, in particular, struggled against the Bucs vaunted defensive front. Mayfield and Dalman were clearly outmatched in the trenches, combining for three sacks allowed as well as four quarterback pressures apiece.

I’ll preface this by saying Ryan and the receivers did the offensive line no favors; the quarterback needs to get the ball out quicker, and the wideouts need to generate more separation. However, the offensive line issues go far beyond those two reasons. The center rotation between Hennessy and Dalman has continued for the second-straight week — Dalman 26 snaps (37%); Hennessy 45 snaps (63%) — and it couldn’t be going worse. The center change ultimately resulted in the most expected outcome — a botched snap.

It wasn’t even just one either. The quarterback to center exchange is so important, and when a team rotates centers, this can be the outcome. Dalman and Ryan had two fumbled snaps, which will be one of the highlights of the experiment. I didn’t think Dalman played that terrible either, all things considered. However, Pro Football Focus seems to think otherwise.

Those discrepancies are pretty jarring, and it’ll be interesting to see how the staff handles things going forward. Hennessy and Dalman aren’t even the most concerning players along the line. Jalen Mayfield was consistently whipped by the Bucs front, granted they are one of the best in the league in this area. Still, the third-round pick has shown slight improvement since the Bucs and Falcons played earlier in the season. It is quite the issue. The Falcons may be trying to improve play at center with the Hennessy-Dalman rotation, but the bigger problem lies at left guard. He is a rookie, which should be considered when analyzing his play, but Mayfield is losing time to prove he can be the team’s left guard of the future.

 

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