The 2018 season was dreadful, especially for the defense. Because of that, many assumed the franchise would go after a coveted defensive lineman in the draft to beef up one of the league’s worst rush defenses and pass rushes from a year ago.
So when the 14th pick rolled around, the expectation was that Atlanta would take one of the many defensive playmakers that were still on the board, such as Dexter Lawrence, Jeffrey Simmons or Montez Sweat. But the Falcons went in a different direction, selecting Chris Lindstrom, an offensive guard out of Boston College. While the selection was unanticipated; it sent a message as to what the goal was moving forward.
The Falcons reinforced their plan by trading back into the first round to take Washington’s offensive tackle Kaleb McGary with the 31st pick. It was a statement: Atlanta wants their offense to return to its 2016 form, and they believe all they need is steady line play to reach their goals.
The play-makers are already in place. With arguably the best receiving core in the league, an elite quarterback and a returning, healthy Devonta Freeman alongside Ito Smith – the offensive line has been the only area of concern for the past two seasons.
The running game never got going under Steve Sarkisian, and contrary to popular belief, it was not because of egregious playcalling. The backs rarely had clear running lanes. And Matt Ryan, who we all know is not the most mobile of quarterbacks, was running for his life and sacked 42 times
With the sheer volume of offensive firepower they have on the roster, it’s a waste if the Falcons do not allow all that talent to make plays because of incompetent protection up front. So the front office committed. Not only did they draft some beef in the trenches, but they signed veteran free agents like John Wetzel, Adam Gettis, James Carpenter, and Jamon Brown to ensure depth would no longer be an issue.
When the Falcons made their memorable run to the Super Bowl, they did it on the back of a historically elite offensive system. That’s what they are hoping for again this season. If James Carpenter, Chris Lindstrom, and Kaleb McGary all start – the Falcons will become the first team in history to have all five of their lineman be former first-round selections.
The defense was beat up last year resulting in a massive decline, but this was a group that was trending up year by year before that. The healthy return of their core pieces should be enough to bump them back into the top half of the league. They will also benefit tremendously from an offensive line that can run the ball effectively. Everything for this Falcons team, on both sides of the ball, will feel the effect of an enhanced offensive line; which is why the front office spent all their resources on it this offseason.