Matt Ryan is coming off his third season in a row being sacked more than 40 times — 131 sacks since 2018. That grotesquely high figure is due, in part, to Dirk Koetter’s system and Ryan throwing it more. More passing plays=more sacks. Arthur Smith’s run-centric offense will provide some relief for Matty Ice, but the offensive line still needs bolstering if Atlanta wants their aging veteran as healthy as possible. I am still 100% for drafting Penei Sewell at #4 if he falls, which is a big if, and still signing one or two of the prospective interior offensive lineman.
My entire vision for this Falcons team in 2021 revolves around the idea of play in the trenches improving dramatically. That starts with drafting Penei Sewell if he falls, but as I mentioned, it shouldn’t stop there.
Lately, there have been talking heads like Daniel Jeramiah who say Penei Sewell might not be the best offensive linemen in this class. That Rashawn Slater is better, and Sewell might fall out of the top five and almost out of the top ten in his latest mock — going to the Cowboys at ten.
My Top 50 for 2021 NFL Drafthttps://t.co/8jxgC7w4hq
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 26, 2021
I get it; some of these mock drafts are more for clicks than actually trying to get it right. Jeremiah couldn’t be further from what’s going to happen on draft night. The Falcons would be LUCKY if the former Duck fell to fourth overall. He is regarded as the best prospect by many, not named Trevor Lawrence.
Sewell thrives in both phases of blocking. He is a better run than pass blocker, but it’s splitting hairs — he’s great at both. Sewell is that freakish combination of size and athleticism that regular people like you and me just don’t understand. The man is a refrigerator that moves like a cat. He has shown to have the raw power to drive people off the ball alone or in double teams and the lateral agility to block in motion. These attributes directly associate with what power and zone running schemes demand of offensive linemen — power scheme=downhill blocking; zone scheme=lateral quickness, blocking in motion.
Highest career run-blocking grade in the 2021 Draft class
1. Penei Sewell, Oregon: 94.8
2. Landon Dickerson, Bama: 93.9
3. Brady Christensen, BYU: 91.2
4. Teven Jenkins, OK St: 90.3
5. Christian Darrisaw, VA Tech: 90.2 pic.twitter.com/6TC1Yczb31
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 25, 2021
Highest career pass-blocking grade in the 2021 Draft class
1. Brady Christensen, BYU: 94.5
2. Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC: 91.9
3. Samuel Cosmi, Texas: 89.6
4. Penei Sewell, Oregon: 89.3 pic.twitter.com/Ne9dOERfbF
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 26, 2021
Everything about Penei is centered around consistency. He produces at a high level in all phases. From here, it is all about refining those techniques to make the mistakes few and far between. He uses his hands, which will develop with the right offensive line coach, well, but at times he doesn’t have good placement, or he can’t establish his hands early — giving the rusher the edge. He also struggled, in spurts, with power edge rushers — most notably against Auburn. He is a great run blocker, but he isn’t some Larry Allen bulldozer.
So when Sewell loses, which is rare, it is because he doesn’t get his hands on the rusher — true among all NFL tackles. He sporadically struggled against bigger defenders — he’s only 20. And he is one of, if not the best run-blockers in this draft — he just doesn’t move mountains.
Some of these analysts are so caught up in being right or beating someone to the punch that they end up looking like clowns. There is no way in hell Penei Sewell falls out of the top five, and I don’t expect him to fall out of the top three. But if he does, Sewell would look great in red and black.
Arthur Smith’s offense in Tennesse is a play-action concept built off of running the wide zone. But he ran other run schemes too, so there is no telling what his run-game will look like. Either way, Sewell can play in whatever his coach asks him to do. Shuffle the offensive line around if you have to. If Penei Sewell can only play left tackle, move Jake Mattews to left guard or right tackle. Matthews is surely able to kick inside to left guard, as Sewell will be later in his career when athletic edge rushers start to give older tackles trouble. If Sewell can play right tackle, kick Kaleb McGary inside. There really are countless ways to get around the multiple starters at the same position. Going into camp and coming out with the best five linemen on the field at the same time should be the goal, regardless of the position.
IT LITERALLY DOESN’T MATTER WHO IS RUNNING THE BALL IF THE SCHEME AND OFFENSIVE LINE PLAY IS GOOD ENOUGH. See Kyle Shanahan’s work in San Francisco with Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, Jerick McKinnon, or even JaMycal Hasty. And in his time in Atlanta, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman enjoyed career highs in every major rushing statistic. It doesn’t matter who is running the ball; just get your offensive line and scheme right.
Photo: Matthew Visinsky