It was the best of guards, it was the worst of guards. It was the 2013 Atlanta Falcons guard position, which achieved competence on the left side and devolved into utter failure on the right side.
The story of the offensive line was a grim one in 2013, but it's worth noting that Blalock turned in a remarkably solid season. He was basically the only linemen who was good most every week of the season, and he was solid in both pass protection and run blocking. Garrett Reynolds graded out fairly well per Pro Football Focus, but he had long stretches where he struggled like a fish in a net. Peter Konz was not much better once he took over at right guard, with Harland Gunn getting a handful of impressive snaps. That's it. That was the position.
Clearly, the Falcons need to make an upgrade at right guard one of their top priorities, but before we talk more about that, let's examine 2013 for the guard position.
The Falcons currently have a handful of guards or guard-capable players under contract. Here they are.
- LG Justin Blalock
- RG Garrett Reynolds
- G/C Peter Konz
- G Harland Gunn
Nothing of note. Blalock was sturdy and healthy all season long, while Konz and Reynolds did not struggle for reasons pertaining to injuries. I suppose it's fair to wonder if Mike Johnson might have gotten snaps at guard had things not gone differently, but this was a healthy position.
Week 14 against the Green Bay Packers. Justin Blalock opened avenues in the run game and managed to keep pass rushers occupied, helping out the line around him. It was a fine game.
Week 17 against Carolina. Peter Konz was absolutely destroyed at right guard by the Panthers' potent pass rushers, to the point where the Falcons started to work in Harland Gunn. It was bad news.
I have a hard time picking one, honestly. It was something Blalock did.
I have a hard time picking one, honestly. It was something Reynolds or Konz did.
Players Under Contract
LG Justin Blalock, $4.5 million base salary, $7.66 million cap hit
RG Garrett Reynolds, $1.285 million base salary, $1.578 million cap hit
G Harland Gunn, $570,000 base salary, $570,000 cap hit
G Peter Konz, $716,236 base salary, $978,709 cap hit
Final Grade: C-
Justin Blalock was a solid B/B+, showing competence if not excellence at left guard. This grade is dragged down by the D/D- that Peter Konz and Garrett Reynolds give us, which leaves the Falcons firmly on the lower end of mediocrity for the guard position in 2013.
The good news is that almost any competent veteran at right guard will deliver better results in 2014, and Justin Blalock should have a couple of quality years left in him. As odd as it sounds, the Falcons might actually be reasonably strong at guard this next year if they sign and draft wisely.
It'll be a damn sight better than 2013.