Pat Hill: Falcons Ground Games Woe Stem Partly From Practice

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Pat Hill does not sound like a man afraid to lose his job, but an unhappy man nonetheless.

There have been a litany of reasons suggested for the Falcons' ongoing, embarrassing woes trying to run the football. I've seen fingers pointed at Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, the offensive line, offensive line coach Pat Hill and Mike Smith.

Out of all of those, the one accusation that rings the truest is that the offensive line is the primary culprit, and by extension Hill. They grade out poorly by almost any metric, they look like they couldn't block for a Panzer tank and every back running behind the line is averaging under four yards per carry, usually a sure sign that something is wrong with the unit in front of Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling.

Pat Hill sees the issue, isn't happy about it and has a unique explanation for it:

Hill is by no means advocating more padded practices. That's the last thing a banged up Falcons team would need at this point. Still, it's difficult to simulate the running game in shorts.

"It's very hard," Hill said. "In college, you're in pads twice a week or three times a week. It's a different game here. If you did that every day with these guys, you wouldn't have a team left at the end of the year.

"We pass protect every day. We're throwing in all sorts of periods. We've got one-on-one pass drills. We can do one-on-one pass protection without pads and get your footwork right, get your assignments right. But in the run game in this league, you've got to play with pad level."

I can see this, to a point. If you can't practice it, chances are you'll be more rusty at run blocking when it comes time to step on the field. Yet I also can't help but think it's just a talent issue, given that some of these guys have never shown themselves to be elite run blocking linemen in the past.

Hill does agree, since Vaughn McClure's article goes on to talk about Hill showing his linemen film and rubbing their noses in their mistakes. It doesn't sound like he's doing anything particularly egregious on the coaching front, but he could still be the fall guy this coming off-season for the line's ongoing woes. It'll be interesting to see if he can coax legitimate, sustained improvement in the run blocking department over the next eight games.

One final note: I think this is one of my favorite coach lines of the season:

"I don't go by stats; I go by yards per carry," Hill said. "We'd like to be over 4. Efficient runs for us are 4 yards.''

That is a stat, Pat.

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