For the first time since 2016, the Falcons entered the off-season with several personnel concerns. Both lines were consistently outmanned last season. From not protecting Matt Ryan to not generating enough pressure, the Falcons were getting torched more often defensively than torching opposing defenses offensively through the air. They struggled to run the ball effectively and got mauled on the ground defensively as well.
It was clear they needed to invest in improving both lines. Due to limited cap space, the Falcons couldn’t make a high-profile signing. Opting to sign an intriguing guard entering his prime like Jamon Brown was the best route for them to address their biggest flaw on the roster.
Brown is the latest signing to help solve the endless right guard conundrum. Jon Asamoah, Chris Chester, and Brandon Fusco were previous signings that tried to bring solidity to a problematic position. None of the veteran signings proved to be suitable long-term fits. After having a mauler and tone-setter like Harvey Dahl from 2008 to 2010, the Falcons haven’t received above-average play at right guard since then. To add a 340-pound guard represents a sense of change from the previous regime. While the coaching staff still wants their linemen to be athletic, it’s clear they prioritized on signing bigger players to give Ryan ample time in the pocket and convert on short yardage situations. Brown will be at the forefront of turning their vision into reality.
I put together a breakdown of Brown’s strengths and weaknesses. This is what stood out from watching the Giants play against San Francisco, Philadelphia, Tennessee, and Tampa Bay. These are four teams the Falcons will be facing this upcoming season.
Pass protection woes
4th quarter: 3rd & 3 at SF 47
Brown’s poor technique can be exploited when isolated in pass protection. From his hand usage to body control, this is a disastrous snap on a crucial third down. He allows Arik Armstead to thrust both hands into his chest. A weak punch leads to him getting directly pushed back into Eli Manning’s lap, which leads to the pocket collapsing. There are several plays where Brown looks sluggish and uncomfortable in pass protection.
Scouts were concerned about his raw technique, along with his questionable footwork coming out of Louisville. Explosive interior rushers like Armstead will give him fits with their first-step and power. Brown also has a tendency to wear down in games. That’s obviously not ideal, especially on third down in the fourth quarter of a tight game. He must stay poised in these situations, along with working on his punch in pass protection.
4th quarter: 3rd & 7 at NYG 26
On the next drive, Brown is responsible for another failed attempt on third down. He wasn’t solely responsible as San Francisco ran a well-designed blitz. Based on Manning not being able to cope with pressure, this play was bound to fall apart. It’s still disappointing for Brown to look sloppy in pass protection once again.
He whiffs on his punch, which is unacceptable at such a narrow angle. DeForest Buckner slides right into him before delivering a nifty swim move. To get beat so cleanly through the A-gap is the result of a bad punch and substandard technique. A long, lanky pass rusher like Buckner is always capable of outsmarting opposing linemen. Brown needs to be observant of who he is going up to avoid looking clumsy and stiff.
2nd quarter: 2nd & 8 at NYG 15
There isn’t much shame in being on the receiving end of Fletcher Cox’s rage. Other than Aaron Donald, no defensive tackle is more disruptive than Philadelphia’s interior monster. It doesn’t matter how big the opposing guard is. Cox is capable of manhandling any lineman who lines up opposite of him. Brown quickly learns the hard way by getting driven backwards on a swift inside move from Cox.
What makes this play concerning is how off balance Brown looks from the start. You can’t afford to be out of position immediately against powerhouse interior rushers. When Brown struggled in pass protection, it largely comes from him not moving his feet effectively. That flaw is going to be targeted in a division with Kawann Short, Gerald McCoy, and Sheldon Rankins.
2nd quarter: 2nd & 15 at PHI 39
This is another play showcasing Brown’s horrendous positioning. How often he gets sloppy with his technique is the most disappointing aspect of this play. He tries to beat Cox inside, but leaves himself open to getting beat outside. That comes from his shoulders being in-and-out. Instead of maintaining a strong base with his shoulders squared, Brown gets sloppy and Cox swats him away with relative ease.
It’s easy to look lost against a four-time Pro Bowler. Not making him work to earn these pressures is still frustrating. Manning can’t even go through his progressions, let alone step up in the pocket. There is no denying Brown’s physical gifts. Not knowing how to use them consistently played a major role in the Rams and Giants both viewing him as an expendable player.
Run blocking capabilities
2nd quarter: 1st & 10 at NYG 49
The biggest strength in Brown’s game comes from how well he uses his physical gifts as a run blocker. When you watch him play, there are plenty of reasons to be fascinated by him. A six-foot-six, 340-pound guard who can move and use his length exceptionally well garners attention. How he uses his long arms and sheer power will translate into highlight-reel blocks.
Brown uses his length to keep Armstead at bay, which leads to him locating Fred Warner and viciously lowering his right shoulder into the helpless rookie linebacker. The Falcons haven’t had a guard who can deliver devastating blocks like that since the aforementioned Dahl. Saquon Barkley gets the space he needs to hit the cut back lane and showcase his exceptional footwork for a seven-yard gain.
4th quarter: 1st & 10 at TB 11
Brown didn’t quite make the contact he wanted to, but not every effective block is based off making the perfect connection. An effective block doesn’t always consist of a glorious pancake or taking a linebacker five yards away from the play. If the player you block isn’t able to make a stop because of what you did, you did your primary job as a blocker. Brown thwarts Gerald McCoy to prevent him from bursting through the B-gap. By lowering his shoulder and keeping his focus downfield, the key block is there to be made at the second level.
Brown recognizes Riley Bullough is already out of position on the counter. He tries to locate Barkley yet leaves himself liable towards getting erased from the play. Brown doesn’t completely wipe him out, but he does more than enough to affect his pursuit. That kind of block with the support of his teammates, in particular Rhett Ellison’s tremendous reach bock, will lead to more first down success for the Falcons. They were slightly below average at running the ball on first down per Warren Sharp.
2nd quarter: 1st & 10 at NYG 6
These are the kind of plays that will get coaches and fans excited. If Brown uses his massive frame properly, space will be created for Atlanta’s exciting running back tandem. He takes an excellent angle in negating Bennie Logan’s push. That allows Chad Wheeler to drive him away, which gives Barkley time to find the cutback lane. Brown stays attack-minded by getting to the second level. After taking a strong angle, he can get in front of Jayon Brown.
Once the mammoth guard gets both hands on a linebacker, they’re going on a painful ride away from the ball-carrier. Brown will need to be wary of his hand usage in these situations. As well as he does here, he puts himself at risk of being penalized for illegal contact. There are plenty of ways to maul linebackers at the second level without hitting them directly in the face. Brown can be a tone-setter, but he can’t afford to get careless during these moments.
1st quarter: 1st & 10 at PHI 24
When Brown times his jump right, he can drive defensive tackles away from the point of attack. How he blasts into Treyvon Hester and creates a huge running lane for Wayne Gallman is very impressive. Between Brown’s hand placement and burst off the line of scrimmage, you can see why the Falcons targeted him in free agency.
They didn’t have a guard on the roster who can move defensive tackles with such explosion and ferocity. Brown should provide that “nasty” element to an offensive line in dire need of it. Hopefully for the Falcons’ sake, whoever is lining up at full black (possibly Luke Stocker) won’t blow his blocking assignment like Elijhaa Penny did here.
4th quarter: 3rd & 4 at NYG 30
The most troubling tendency in Brown’s game is his inability to recognize stunts and twists. With more defenses scheming up ways to generate pressure, offensive linemen must play with more astuteness. Brown constantly found himself locked onto the interior rusher, who rushed to the outside without attempting a crafty or violent move.
Not recognizing what was being caused up front left an already-jittery Manning in a difficult situation. Derrick Morgan creates an opening for Harold Landry to accelerate into the open gap off the stunt. With Brown fixated on Morgan, Manning can’t step into the pocket because of Landry swarming in. He misses Sterling Shepard across the middle as a result of the pressure.
1st quarter: 3rd & 5 at NYG 49
This is almost a carbon copy of the previous play. While they didn’t have many reps together before the game, it’s alarming to see the lack of chemistry between Brown and Wheeler. Brown is once again focused on the opposing interior rusher, as Buckner bursts to the outside. The threat of Buckner has Brown’s attention, which allows Cassius Marsh to slide behind the terrific defensive tackle to get a clean shot on Manning.
Wheeler’s lack of athleticism and technique is apparent. It’s still hard for most right tackles to adjust at this angle on a stunt. Brown needs to start feeling out interior rushers better. There is more to being a guard in pass protection than simply blocking the player in front of you. Guards must be prepared for different schematic concepts, regardless if the design is basic or exotic. That’s something the massive right guard will have to comprehend as a potential long-term starter.
2nd quarter: 3rd & 3 at SF 3
Brown’s blunders didn’t solely come in pass protection. There were some plays when he was asked to either complete a pull or seal block. Both blocks are mentioned because it’s unclear if Brown either failed to handle his assignment or was the receipt of poor play designing on certain plays. Look no further than this play, which ends up being a costly mistake.
The Giants are looking to run straight up the gut with Barkley. As Brown looks to be pulling, he oddly tries to seal off Armstead. That allows Warner to shoot the gap and bring down Barkley without any resistance. You could argue that Spencer Pulley could have possibly done better in transitioning into picking up Warner. Given the play design, Brown should have been the lineman to pull and take out the linebacker. Trying to seal off Armstead (which he didn’t do) doesn’t accomplish much on this particular run out of shotgun. He will need to be comfortable making blocks on the move and at the second level in Atlanta.
The jury is still very much out on Brown. A two-game suspension forced him out of a great situation with the Rams. Although he showed promise with the Giants, there are still clear flaws in his game. How he evolves as a pass blocker will be closely monitored on a right side filled with uncertainty. Ty Sambrailo hasn’t exactly proven himself to be a starting-caliber right tackle. While Brown has impressive traits, there isn’t enough evidence to suggest he’ll be a surefire solution to what has been the offense’s biggest personnel weakness for years. The right side of the offensive line will determine if this unit rebounds from last year’s debacle and regains their status as an above-average unit.