There were moments last season where the offensive line seemed more a revolving door to the backfield than protective bulwark. At times Matt Ryan was flushed out of the pocket far too early and left to scramble for his life. We gained an immense appreciation for Ryan’s newfound evasive superpowers and ability to gain first downs with his legs, but it’s no overstatement that this is not the apex of Matt Ryan’s game.
So Pro Football Focus’s offensive line rankings might shock you a bit.
The Atlanta Falcons ranked second overall in PFF’s offensive line rankings for 2017. Befuddled? You’re not alone—but taking a closer look at Atlanta’s overall play on the line illuminates it a bit. The Falcons allowed 148 quarterback pressures, the sixth-fewest in the league, and had a pass blocking efficiency of 79.7.
The Falcons’ interior offensive line—specifically right guard—was a problem area last season. In his first year as a full-time starter, Wes Schweitzer was bullied early and often (albeit by some top-tier NFL talent), generating an atrocious 43.7 from PFF—good for 56th among guards. Andy Levitre had a very respectable season opposite him, but his triceps injury against the Vikings in Week 13 left the line in a state of flux that was exposed repeatedly in the playoffs.
But enough of the bad news!
The play of Jake Matthews, Alex Mack, and Ryan Schraeder was exemplary for the bulk of the year, especially in the ground game. Atlanta’s outside zone runs yielded an average of 4.45 yards, which ranks among the league’s best. Behind the aforementioned trio of big men, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman amassed 1,493 combined rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in the regular season.
In short: Atlanta’s run blocking was very, very good. Pass blocking on the other hand could use improvement.
The right guard spot remains an area of concern heading into the new season, but with Ben Garland’s recent second-round tender, he will certainly factor into Atlanta’s plans at the position in 2018. With Wes Schweitzer, Sean Harlow, and potentially an early draft pick rounding out the options on the interior offensive line, the Falcons will have some important decisions to make come training camp.
So Atlanta’s offensive line was actually a solid unit last season—who knew?