Justin Blalock is an extremely intelligent dude who chooses his words carefully. He also doesn't get the credit he's due for being an above-average guard. That's what makes his comments to ESPN Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure so interesting.
Read the whole article, but I've blocked off a large chunk of his quote because it's so intriguing:
"There's always something to get better at. Personally, I don't think I spoke up enough when I felt things weren't working. There were several times -- I don't want to say a scheme but maybe something I was doing -- where I beat my head against the wall and tried to figure where I could have done something better, but didn't. It wasn't necessarily something the coaches could have changed. It was more like something I just didn't do well. Maybe I should have asked for some different advice or something of that nature."
"Like a backside cutoff [block]. There were a lot of teams that made it tough, schematically, with the way linebackers would play to pull you off a double-team. And there were times, several times, they were trying to get movement on a down lineman and you think all week, 'I really have to come off and crush this down lineman' and then, it leaves a big hole for a linebacker to run through. And you're a little late getting on that guy because you really want to get movement. I should have done a better job of communicating so your partner in the block can help cover you if you have to go quicker. Sometimes, it's tough to say you need help. Sometimes, it's tough to communicate it. Stuff like that, I can do better."
"And when you're having turnover a lot [along the line], different guys see things different ways and like different cues. It takes some getting used to. And that was tough, at times."
You don't have to dig deeply into these remarks to find implicit criticism of Pat Hill and the team's offensive scheming. Blalock goes out of his way to avoid directly criticizing the scheme, the coaching staff, or the team. I suppose that's a godo thing. But it's a dead giveaway when he talks about not speaking up when he felt things were not working. In short, Blalock didn't feel like he could speak up, and to an extent, he still doesn't. I'm not sure if that's a good thing.
Communication also seemed to be a real struggle for these Falcons, and Blalock alludes to that here as well. With inexperienced, flailing players on either side of him, I'm sure he felt like he could have done more to prop them up. I'm sure he started wondering how they got to that point. Given that Blalock is not a sorcerer, I'm not going to hang too much of Lamar Holmes and Peter Konz's lackluster play around his neck. I wouldn't mind him taking a more active role, however. I wouldn't mind him saying something if he feels things aren't going well.
This also seems like a good time to address what's going to happen to Justin Blalock this offseason. Blalock may be asked to restructure his deal, but he's going absolutely nowhere. Even if he refuses to restructure, the Falcons won't cut him. Because to be frank, for what their getting, his deal isn't horrible. He's slightly overpaid, but not by an amount that will make or break the team. Unless the Falcons pour significant resources into the offensive line, he's likely to be the team's best guard and arguably best lineman all over again in 2014.