The other day, we noted that ESPN thought the Falcons had the third-best arsenal of offensive weapons of any team in the NFL. Today, we’re seeing the Falcons rank #3 for something on offense again, though this time it’s that underrated offensive line.
Per Pro Football Focus, Atlanta’s relative strength at tackle, the sustained excellence of Alex Mack, and the addition of Brandon Fusco are all reasons to believe this line will be one of the best in the NFL. I’d say that given Andy Levitre’s 2017 injury I’m probably slightly less optimistic than PFF about this line, which is probably a first.
One need look no further than the divisional-round matchup with the Rams to know that guard is an issue for the Falcons. In that game, Aaron Donald racked up 11 pressures against the Falcons interior (albeit without Andy Levitre). They’ve alleviated that to some degree with the signing of journeyman Brandon Fusco from San Francisco (76.0 overall grade on 1,083 snaps last season). They’ve been solid everywhere else though of late, especially at center where Alex Mack has posted back-to-back 88.0-plus graded seasons for the Falcons.
Where are the other teams in the NFC South, you ask? The Saints appear at #6 with their strong unit, which is one of the best in the NFL in terms of pass protection. The Panthers are at #21 with questions at left guard and Matt Kalil stinking up the left tackle position, though they have some options to try out this summer. And the Buccaneers are at #22, with left tackle Donovan Smith looking like an active liability and center Ryan Jensen a pricy signing who has to live up to that contract. All of those rankings feel fair.
If it shakes out like that in 2018, the Falcons are well on their way to another playoff berth, and the Saints probably won’t be far behind them. That’s especially true if you believe, as I know many of our fine and fair readers do, that games are won and lost in the trenches.