Run blocking for the Falcons this season is a well-documented problem. You can simply look at how the Falcons are faring this season in terms of yards per game, and see that Atlanta's average of 64.4 yards per game puts them dead last in the league. Their three rushing touchdowns this season aren't exactly blowing anyone's minds, either. While it's easy to point to Steven Jackson's injury, which he suffered early in week two against the Rams, and which lingered until the matchup against the Cardinals, as a factor, Jackson was not particularly effective running the ball in week one against the Saints, either.
Pro Football Focus premium stats suggest that backup offensive lineman/extra blocker/occasional fullback Joe Hawley is Atlanta's most effective run blocker, with a grade of +2.1 in his limited 27 run blocking snaps this season. Jeremy Trueblood, who filled in at right tackle while Lamar Holmes started at left tackle for an injured Sam Baker, is the only other run blocker with a positive grade, at +0.5. Garrett Reynolds is graded at -0.7, Justin Blalock is graded at -2.7, Sam Baker has earned a -4.4, Lamar Holmes has a -6.9 grade, and Peter Konz comes in with a staggering -11.8. Tight ends Tony Gonzalez and Levine Toilolo are called upon to help run block as well, but they're not making a huge difference, either. Gonzalez is graded at -3.3, and Toilolo has a -2.0 grade.
While there's some subjectivity to advanced stats, and they certainly do not paint a complete picture, whether or not Atlanta's run blocking is adequate is not really a discussion at this point. Put frankly, it stinks. ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure spoke with the Falcons' offensive line coach Pat Hill yesterday, and while Hill has some interesting, and likely accurate, thoughts on the reasons for the sub-par run blocking, there's not much the Falcons can do about it.
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement limits teams to one padded practice per week. Effective run blocking requires contact, and there's no contact in non-padded practices. If the team is only practicing in pads once per week, they're not exclusively working on rushing during those practices. Per Hill, the team may take 15-20 rushing snaps in a padded practice, which doesn't give the offensive line much time to refine their technique.
That's not to say that the offensive line and Hill aren't addressing the run blocking deficiencies in the film room. But it's a different story to translate the corrections from the film room to actual, effective run blocking in a game situation.
With the limits on padded practices imposed by the CBA, how do you think the Falcons can make much-needed improvements to their run blocking?