Hi. Remember me? I’ve been absent from The Falcoholic for a while now. Where have I been? Working. Parenting. Battling denial and grief following our horrific playoff loss to the Giants. Anyway, I’m back, and I have a story to share.
A few months ago--the weekend that the Falcons played the Seahawks, actually--I attended a work event with my husband, and I had the good fortune to be seated next to a gentleman named Chuck Clausen. Clausen spent many years as a linebackers coach and defensive line coach in the NFL, with the Eagles (he was with the team in 1981 when Dick Vermeil led them to the Super Bowl), the Chargers, and our Falcons.
I asked Clausen approximately a billion questions about football, because, if you are lucky enough to be seated next to a former NFL position coach at the birthday party of an elderly man you don’t actually know, shouldn’t you take advantage of it? What he shared with me gave me reason to be very encouraged by the Falcons’ upgraded coaching staff, particularly offensive line coach Pat Hill. Hit the jump to find out why.
The Falcons offensive line struggled last season. From pass protection, to run blocking, the offensive line just never seemed to gel, and they were consistently inconsistent. Clausen shared a couple of potential reasons for last season’s woes.
According to Clausen, each coach has a specific way of communicating with players, and a specific set of phrases he will use consistently. Players get accustomed to hearing their coaches say the same things in the same ways, day in and day out. They tune it out--not necessarily in a disrespectful way--but it becomes background noise. Players have been listening to coaches yell about fundamentals since they were children, and when it becomes routine, they cease to be as focused on instruction from coaches. This is particularly a problem on the offensive line, where their fundamentals can impact the quarterback’s success, the ability to get a first down in a fourth and short situation, and much more.
Well, great news. This AtlantaFalcons.com article by Jay Adams indicates that correcting the fundamentals along the offensive line is Pat Hill’s top priority. And this AtlantaFalcons.com article by Daniel Cox illustrates that Hill expects, as a new voice, that he will be able to get through to his players and help them make the necessary adjustments to improve, which is clearly his intention.
Clausen also said, more than any other position, the offensive line must function effectively together as a unit to be successful. Losing Harvey Dahl in free agency prior to the 2011 season changed the chemistry of the offensive line, and the truncated offseason did not afford them an opportunity to learn to function together as effectively as was necessary. The full offseason and Hill’s influence should solidify the chemistry required to function as a cohesive unit in 2012, even with the addition of Vince Manuwai and Peter Konz, who could potentially earn starting jobs.
With new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s plans to implement a much more diverse offensive scheme, a cohesive, fundamentally sound offensive line will be necessary for the Falcons' success. It appears that Pat Hill has every intention of molding the offensive line unit into exactly what the Falcons will need to be successful in the coming season.