Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald hits Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan causing a fumble that the Rams recovered and knocking Matt Ryan out of the game with an apparent injury during the fourth quarter Sunday, October 20, 2019, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Falcons’ revamped offensive line off to rocky start 

However, through seven games, the line is on pace to give up more sacks and quarterbacks hits than the old unit did in 2018. Its next challenge is to face a stout Seattle defensive front at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Falcons’ offensive line gave up 108 quarterback hits and 42 sacks last season as starting guards Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco were lost to injury and right tackle Ryan Schraeder’s play slipped dramatically. 

While posting a 1-6 record this season, the Falcons have given up 19 sacks and 48 quarterback hits. Projected over 16 games, the Falcons are on pace to allow 43.4 sacks and 109.7 quarterback hits. 

The line will have a different challenge against Seattle’s defensive line, which features defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. 

“They are disruptive,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “From the outside they feel disruptive, and sometimes that can be just as effective.”

The Falcons wanted better protection for quarterback Matt Ryan, but the revamped line has struggled early. Ryan was knocked out Sunday during the 37-10 loss to the Rams with a high right ankle sprain and did not practice Wednesday. 

“We didn’t play well in any areas of the game on offense,” offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said of the Rams’ game. “It was our worst game of the year. I don’t think it’s right to put (the blame) on any one group.”

Koetter was adamant about not pointing toward the offensive-line woes. 

“We didn’t execute well across the board,” Koetter said. “We felt like against the Rams’ defense we needed to stay ahead of the chains. We did a good job of that the last three games, but we did not do a good job of that (against the Rams).” 

The Rams ended up with five sacks and nine quarterback hits on Ryan and backup quarterback Matt Schaub. 

“We did have problems in protection, but that was across the board,” Koetter said. “When we did protect, we didn’t execute as well as we needed to in the passing game.”

Rookie tackle Kaleb McGary had a rough outing. Wes Schweitzer was rotating at left guard with James Carpenter, who was trying to play through a knee injury.

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald beat Schweitzer on the play when Ryan was injured on.  

“We got beat on the edge,” Koetter said. “(Outside linebacker Dante) Fowler, he had an excellent game. We had trouble on the edge, and they collapsed the pocket. When Matt stepped up, they usually had (extra players), and they hit Matt in that respect.”

With the Falcons unable to keep the Rams out of pass-rushing situations, Ryan had a long day. 

“They got us on an overload blitz,” Koetter said. “It didn’t go down as a sack, but Matt took a hit. We ran a quick count, and they brought four off of a side. We didn’t ... protection is a team game. Protection is team. It’s on everybody.”

The Falcons believe McGary will bounce back. 

“Kaleb has been trending upward this whole season and has been getting better and better,” Koetter said. “That’s pretty common for young guys. As they go through their first NFL season, there are going to be some highs and lows. Obviously, this was not Kaleb’s best, but he wasn’t the only one in that boat.”

The Falcons are hopeful that a slight tweak will help the rookie. 

“He has to be more aggressive in his sets and get his hands on guys quicker,” Koetter said. “When he does that. he’s been real successful.”

However, Koetter still wanted to protect the offensive linemen.

“We had a rough night overall,” Koetter said. “To single out any position group is not right. James has been fighting through some nagging injuries. That’s why we rotated Wes through there. Jamon (Brown) might have played the second best on the offensive line.”

Seattle has recorded only 11 sacks, but will see the video from the game Sunday and try to replicate their attacks. 

“(The Rams) had a mindset that they were going to bring it to us,” Koetter said. “We have to do better in answering the bell in that respect.” 

The unit suffered a blow when right guard Chris Lindstrom, the 14th overall draft pick, sustained a broken foot in the season opener. Also, McGary missed most of the exhibition season with a heart ablation procedure and has been learning the NFL game on the fly.

The Falcons wanted to get bigger along the offensive line and add quality depth. The early-season injuries, which included an elbow injury to center Alex Mack, have been a factor. 


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