Jake Matthews, Justin Blalock, and Lamar Holmes all spoke to the media following yesterday's final training camp practice on the current status of the offensive line following the season-ending injury suffered by starting left tackle Sam Baker in preseason action against the Texans last weekend.
Holmes, who took snaps at right tackle and whose experience as a starter last season makes him a logical first option to replace Jake Matthews on the right side of the line, talked about the difference in the leadership along the line last season. This line is mostly remade, with Joe Hawley appearing to be entrenched as the starting center, as opposed to Peter Konz last season, as well as the additions of Jake Matthews and Jonathan Asamoah during this offseason.
It's unfortunate that Sam went down, but with the great leadership that we have on the offensive line it's--I mean, there's times--you've really got to flip your mind and get over there to the other side and play and just continue to play fast.
Holmes also talked about his personal approach to improvement for the 2014 season.
My personal key is just play more physical, have better steps, have better hand placement and have better footwork and whatnot than what I had last season.
Preparation seems to be a focus for this unit heading into the season.
It's really all the same, but it's just at certain times you've got to go into certain games with a different game plan than you'd go into games with against other guys. Sometimes you've got to be able to use your inside hand quicker than you're going to have to--sometimes you've got to get able to put both hands on a certain guy and just shut him down completely.
Mike Tice has really been hammering home the idea of flawless fundamentals. Holmes had sloppy hands and footwork last season, which certainly contributed to his struggles on the field. He talked about the difference in technique in terms of making the shift from the left side of the line to the right.
You've just got to have quick hands--quick hands and good footwork on both sides, really. There's really no difference--you've just got to have quick hands and good footwork.
Holmes had some thoughts to share on Mike Tice, also.
He has impacted me greatly. Last year I was a young player--had just maybe--I would say--a few tools in my toolbox. But ever since Tice got here, he's been showing me different ins and outs of the game--different ways to play the game--different ways to read different players. So it's kind of like he's helping me add more tools to my toolbox so I can be a better player.
When asked about the importance of run blocking on the right side of the line, Holmes was very clear.
Every side is important when it comes to run blocking. You can't just really put emphasis on one side. If both sides are good, can't nobody just attack you from either way.
Justin Blalock talked about how the unit will adjust after losing a starter at a key position.
Anytime someone goes down like that, so there's going to be some shuffling along the line--fortunately, we have the talent in our room where we're able to make those adjustments and put five guys out there that are going to be productive and be in the right place and do what they're supposed to do.
Blalock also talked about the challenges involved when a player has to shift from one side of the line to the other.
Those guys are good players. They know their assignments. They know their jobs. Sometimes transposing things from left to right or right to left can be a little touchy...so I just want to make sure we communicate. Sometimes [a player] might still be thinking, "What would I have done at this position?" i just make sure if we're speaking we're always on the right page together. Sometimes we might be wrong, but we're wrong together, and we can still be productive. But fortunately we've got really smart guys in there.
On new offensive line coach Mike Tice, Blalock had this to say.
As far as coaching-wise, he's a straight shooter--as straight as they come. Extremely transparent.
Rookie Jake Matthews also spoke to the media about his shift to the other side of the line. When asked if knowing that he'll be charged with protecting Matt Ryan's blind side put additional pressure on him, Matthews said no.
Honestly, it's not that big of a difference for me. I put a lot of pressure on myself, anyway, to do well, whether it's on the right or left side, I honestly put just as much pressure on myself. That's the way I am--I'm my biggest critic, I just want to do the best I can and prove to these guys that I'm worthy of who I am.
In terms of the adjustment of moving from the right side of the line to the left, Matthews talked about what he'll deal with in terms of trying to effectively make that transition.
Yeah, I mean, the stagger changes. You go for a long time getting used to breaks and a guy with one leg back, now you've got to flip it around. It's almost like going--if you're right handed to left handed. I did it in college--did both of them--and feel pretty comfortable on both sides.
How are you feeling about the current state of the offensive line?