Matt Ryan was harassed, stripped, brought down, and tipped by the Saints defense, but those six sacks really rankle. Again and again and again, pass protection failed and the play was impacted, and New Orleans was just teeing off on Atlanta. The line wasn’t the only reason they lost the game, but it was a significant reason.
We haven’t even touched on the struggles of the ground game, but they were bad.
It’s no great wonder that the offensive line is coming under the microscope after that performance, which is the capper on an up-and-down season. The Falcons have lost both starting guards they began the year with, but it sounds like they’re still looking at some changes for the final five games of the season.
Dan Quinn said if there’s a change that needs to be made on the offensive line, it will be considered pic.twitter.com/YQ9pRQD9Sy— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) November 23, 2018
This could not possibly be more nebulous, but it’s still worth noting. The Falcons went out and got veteran, versatile (if not exactly promising) lineman Zane Beadles recently, have interesting UDFA rookie Matt Gono kicking around the active roster at right tackle, and have former fourth round guard pick Sean Harlow lurking on the practice squad. Ben Garland, Wes Schweitzer and Ryan Schraeder have all struggled to varying degrees in recent weeks, and with the season effectively lost, the Falcons may want to see if they have better alternatives for both the here and now and the future.
Given how vague and non-commital this is, I have no idea what to expect this week. But if the Falcons are willing to acknowledge that this season is kaput—as they should be—they should take a hard look at the season Schraeder in particular is having and think about whether it makes sense to give a guy like Matt Gono snaps that might help him develop and give the team some necessary tape to evaluate him. Chances are good the team won’t be bringing back Ty Sambrailo and Gono could at least be in play as a swing tackle.
Otherwise, there’s no easy and obvious move here. Beadles is a veteran and a known quantity, so the only point of inserting him into the lineup now would be to try to win games in the here and now (which is nice and all but no longer the most pressing concern for this football team) or to evaluate Beadles for the future. Given the way the line has been pushed around at times this year and the urgent need to ensure that doesn’t happen again in 2019, I’m hoping the Falcons will seriously consider giving the likes of Gono and Harlow a shot and seeing where it gets them.