Blocking was a major issue for Atlanta in 2011. There's no denying that was typically the crux of the matter when the Falcons struggled on offense. However, this season things are turning around, as we've already seen in three straight victories.
Whether Pat Hill is just Einstein when it comes to offensive lines or the front five made huge strides in the offseason, the group has really come together so far in 2012. Matt Ryan was only sacked four times in three weeks, and while the running game didn't establish itself in the early going, this facet of the Falcons game stepped up against the Chargers.
According to Pro Football Focus, four out of the five linemen for the Falcons finished with a positive rating out on the West Coast. Tyson Clabo rated an outstanding 5.0 overall, including a 2.1 in run blocking. Todd McClure paved the way with a 2.3 run block rating, which was obvious as Michael Turner continued to find plenty of room up the middle. Garrett Reynolds also finished with a solid 1.1 rating in this area, leading us to believe the Falcons can actually make an impact on the ground. I told you the issues weren't solely on Turner.
Can you guess the one who's absent from this group? Justin Blalock. Surprisingly he's be inefficient this year, rating a -3.9 overall (-3.7 in run blocking). He's allowed six hurries and one hit on No. 2 this season, but no sacks so far, proving the majority of his negative rating derives from poor performance in the ground game.
Everyone in the starting five other than Blalock holds a rating higher than 1.0 this season, which is great to see in the early going. If Blalock can get on board with the rest of the crew, Hill and the Falcons will have an extremely impressive group playing at their current rate. Now that we've seen run blocking does exist in the realm of the Falcons knowledge, let's hope they can figure out how to maintain the balance. I don't mind Ryan throwing the ball all day long, but eventually the ground game is going to be needed.