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A down year for Alex Mack still equals the best run blocking center play in the NFL

Did Mack slip a little in 2018? Maybe. Did he still kick ass? Yes.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Alex Mack is one of the great free agent success stories in Falcons history, full stop. Few free agents have been better or more impactful than the potential future Hall of Famer, with only Michael Turner, Terance Mathis, and John Abraham (I know, technically) coming to mind as other recent examples.

Through his first three seasons in Atlanta, Mack has either been the best or one of the three or so best centers in the NFL. That kind of stability and quality has made up for holes elsewhere on the offensive line and enabled this team to field a Super Bowl-caliber offense in 2016, as well as very good ones in 2017 and 2018. Whether he winds down his career in Atlanta in this contract or manages to stick around longer, we’ll have many reasons to remind his tenure with the Falcons fondly.

That carries over to last year. In a season where the Falcons lost both starting guards and their top back, it was quite natural to expect some kind of pullback from Mack, who is also getting older. And indeed, he was not quite the devourer of defensive linemen he was in 2016 and 2017, settling for...still being the best run blocking center in the entire NFL.

Here’s the relevant passage pumping up Mack from Pro Football Focus:

Mack has flown under the radar as one of the NFL’s top run-blocking centers for the last three years. He earned absurd 20.3% and 19.7% run-block success percentages in 2016 and 2017, respectively, and the two single-season marks rank second and fourth among all qualifying offensive linemen in the last three years. And while his run-block success percentage did drop a bit in 2018, he still finished the year as the NFL’s best in the metric among qualifying centers at 15.90%.

Mack’s decline is coming and may already be here, but he’s descending from the top of Mt. Everest performance-wise, so he should remain at least an effective center for the rest of his contract. With the team beefing up guard and right tackle to give him more help, plus the return of a healthy Devonta Freeman, it’s quite possible Mack has another magical year in 2019. No matter what’s happening around him, though, he remains a rock at the pivot.