Sewell plans to bring ‘violent intentions’ with him to NFL

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

Caption
The highly-rated offensive lineman talks Falcons as he continues to prepare for the NFL draft.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

The Falcons’ offensive line has been the team’s weakest link over the past three seasons.

It has allowed 133 sacks in the last three seasons and has not paved the way for a 1,000-yard rusher since the 2016 Super Bowl season. Will the team look to help the struggling line with the fourth overall pick in this month’s NFL draft?

The Falcons will likely have a chance at drafting Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell, a 6-foot-4, 331 pounder who could help solve the team’s issues at left guard and perhaps slide out to tackle later in his career. He could help strengthen the interior of the passing pocket for quarterback Matt Ryan - and he plans on entering the NFL with a mindset that could present problems for defensive linemen.

“I turn on those violent intentions every time whether if its pass-pro or run block,” Sewell said on a virtual call on Monday. “If you’re lined up across from me, I want to let you know that it’s going to be a long day.”

Sewell has interviewed with the Falcons and if he isn’t selected with the No. 4 pick, he likely won’t get past the Cincinnati Bengals, who own the fifth pick in and need offensive line help as well. The draft will be held April 29 through May 1 in Cleveland.

Sewell said that he’s been working out with former Falcons left tackle Sam Baker to help him great ready for the draft process. Baker played for the Falcons from 2008-14 and made 61 starts over 75 games before a rash of injuries cut his career short.

“Sam Baker was the main guy out there,” Sewell said. “He used to play for the Atlanta Falcons for a long time and then (former NFL offensive line coach) Paul Alexander, too. He came to California here and there to kind of help me out.”

Sewell, 20, opted out of the last season. He played in only 21 college games but left a mark on the Ducks’ program. He started immediately as a freshman, and the Ducks were 17-3 in the 20 games he started.

He’s a mauler in the run game and athletic and agile in pass protection.

“I like to play real physical,” Sewell said. “I like to use my body type to my advantage and really get up under people’s chin. Really like to showcase my mentality also to go along with my physicality that I’m coming off the ball every play with violent intentions.”

Sewell allowed just one sack over 1,376 snaps. After the 2018 season, Sewell earned the highest grade (95.5) that Pro Football Focus has given a lineman. He led the nation with a 95.3 run-blocking grade and was third with a pass-blocking grade of 91.1.

“Man, going against Penei in practice made me a much better player,” Oregon defensive tackle Austin Faoliu said. “Just the type of level that he plays at even in practice. He’s always doing the best he can, giving his full effort.

“Just going against him just made me realize how great he is as an (offensive) lineman, how athletic that he is. I think that just prepared me for our opponents. You don’t really play against too many guys like Penei….(He) just made me a whole better athlete period.”

The Falcons could start Sewell and solidify the line, but he would be next to second-year center Matt Hennessy. Starting a rookie and a first-time starter might be too risky, but they could elect to move a veteran into left guard and start Sewell at another spot.

Falcons’ 2021 draft position: Here are the top nine picks in D. Led’s Mock Draft 3.0:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson)

2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, (QB, BYU)

3. San Francisco 49ers: Trey Lance (QB, North Dakota State)

4. Denver Broncos (trade with Falcons): Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State)

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell (OT, Oregon)

6. Miami Dolphins: DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama)

7. Detroit Lions: Ja’Marr Chase (WR, LSU)

8. Carolina Panthers: Mac Jones (QB, Alabama)

9. Falcons (trade with Broncos): Micah Parsons, (OLB, Penn State)

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