It wasn’t perfect for Jamon Brown and the fresh right side of the Falcons’ offensive line Sunday night, yet relative to what it might’ve been reasonable to expect from two new starters, it was borderline sublime.
One week after Brown was inactive for the season opener at Minnesota, the newcomer started at right guard in place of injured rookie Chris Lindstrom, with rookie Kaleb McGary beside him at right tackle. He also worked next to Ty Sambrailo after McGary wrenched a knee.
Most important, the Falcons beat the Eagles 24-20, and they have cause to feel better about Sunday’s game at Indianapolis, especially since McGary is expected to start.
Brown’s pretty proud of one of the details that came from within. He did most of his work against a first-team All-Pro defensive tackle, and like he said, “we neutralized Fletcher Cox.”
Yeah, that’s a big deal. Cox made one tackle in the game and rarely pressured quarterback Matt Ryan, who was sacked once.
Sure, Brown had intermittent help from center Alex Mack in double-teaming Cox, but not always. He was more interested in giving credit to Mack for his help piloting the line calls and setting the blocking schemes before each of the 66 offensive snaps.
“He’s important to everybody, not just the guards. ... Everybody goes off him,” Brown said of Mack and his calls. “We’ve got to relay (calls). It starts with Alex and then trickles out to the tackles, the tight ends.”
There wasn’t much to be happy about with regard to the Falcons’ running game, as they rushed 17 times for a modest 57 yards.
It’s worth noting, though, that the Eagles played their defense abundantly forward, often packing as many as eight defenders in the run box. They also blitzed a lot. There wasn’t a lot of room to run the ball.
If not for the three interceptions thrown by Ryan, the Falcons may have coasted to victory with 310 passing yards.
The re-made offensive line, which includes new left guard James Carpenter, was stout.
“I thought both guards did fine. Jamon, with a big assist from Alex Mack, was going against Fletcher Cox almost on every play. You know that Fletcher Cox is a legitimate game wrecker in this league,” offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. “I thought both Jamon and James, their experience showed up.”
McGary left the knee after spraining a knee and Sambrailo held up in his stead. When McGary returned to the game, that offered a boost of sorts. Overall, the rookie played 37 snaps and Sambrailo 29.
“When I saw Kaleb in the locker room at halftime, he looked better than I thought he would,” Koetter said. “He was saying that he was trying to come back in, but obviously that’s a trainer and a doctor decision. That he wanted to get back in there and try says a lot about him.”
It didn’t take long for the Falcons’ improved offensive line depth to be tested. Lindstrom, the team’s first draft pick, broke a foot in the opener at Minnesota. The team hopes he’ll be back for the second half of the season. McGary, like Lindstrom a first-round draft pick, went down in the middle of the second game.
He did not practice Wednesday, but returned in limited fashion Thursday with a brace on his left knee. Coach Dan Quinn suggested that he’ll play against the Colts, and tackle Matt Gono, who has struggled with back issues to be inactive through the first two games, may be available as well.
“Gono is doing better. Kaleb is doing work. So those guys who were out (Wednesday) are back in at least half of the reps and can really get a push and a test to see where they’re at,” the coach said. “They’re making great progress in the week, so we’ll see where we head to.”
Brown competed with Carpenter in training camp and the preseason for the left guard spot. After Carpenter took the job, Brown went inactive for the first game because the Falcons activated Wes Schweitzer to back up at center and both guard spots.
Moving to right guard was no big deal for the 6-foot-4, 340-pound Kentuckian. He played much more at right guard than left in three seasons with the Rams and one with the Giants.
“There’s a few things that are different with certain plays to each side, but it’s not much,” Brown said.
There is chatter along the offensive line before each snap, as Mack picks a defender to designate as the middle linebacker and blocking assignments spin off that. The quarterback also pitches into this process.
“There’s a bunch of times,” Brown said. “Just structurally the defense when we get funky looks, like a safety in a linebacker position, Alex knows whether we count him as a linebacker or count him as a safety. That’s important in setting the (middle linebacker) point.
“He’s definitely one of the smartest people for making sure like when we get cover zero or everybody’s up or we get a funky look, just slowing it down and making sure that everybody is set and everybody knows who’s got who. We all ping things off each other.”