The offensive line gets no love. The offensive line gets no respect. When you don't hear about the offensive line, it's usually a good thing. It means they're doing their job. They're opening up running lanes for the running backs and most importantly, they're protecting the quarterback. They're giving the man under center time to go through his reads and throw the ball to his open receiver. While all the accolades go to the big time quarterbacks and receivers, the offensive linemen can be the unsung heroes of a great offense.
If the offensive line isn't doing it's job, it's disastrous for the rest of the offense. The quarterback doesn't have enough time to make a good throw, the running back can't find any holes, and the offense just doesn't flow. We saw this last year in the NFC Divisional round with San Francisco against Green Bay in which Aaron Rodgers, despite his prolific season, was getting pulverized by San Francisco's front seven due to the inefficiency of the offensive line.
The offensive line will be under the microscope this year due to the loss of two of its best contributors last year in Tyson Clabo and Todd McClure. Right Tackle is being examined very closely by Falcons staff because of the injury of Mike Johnson, who was set to take over for Clabo.
In steps Lamar Holmes, a second year player who has hardly played at the professional level. A man playing arguably the most important part of the offensive line, which is tackle. The tackles set up on the end of the offensive line and block opposing DEs and LBs in pass and run protection.
But is Holmes up to the task of guarding franchise quarterback Matt Ryan? Thomas Dimitroff took no real action in response to losing Johnson for the rest of the year other than signing journeyman Jeff Nady, who is listed as the third right tackle at the moment on the depth chart.
This very important position was left to Holmes, who has only seven snaps in the regular season to his name. Holmes is going through some growing pains thus far this year and has been beaten badly a few times by opposing pass rushers. This happened last week in particular with Baltimore Ravens DE/LB Elvis Dumervil making Holmes look silly, maneuvering past him in the blink of an eye and throwing Matt Ryan to the turf in a little over a second.
Another bad incident happened in the running game against the Cincinnati Bengals in which Holmes ran into RB Steven Jackson, nearly knocking him to the ground on a running play. Holmes has been beaten on some plays, and he has blocked well on some plays. It's likely to be an interesting learning experience for Holmes as he tries to get through his first full time season in the NFL.
Two plays don't make a man, and Dumervil is one of the best pass rushers in the league, but this is the type of competition the Falcons will have to play this year. With games against Seattle, San Francisco, Green Bay and New England, the Falcons will go up against some physical front sevens this year.
It also means that his play, and the offensive line's play as a whole will have a huge effect on whether or not Matt Ryan is going to have enough time to pick apart defenses with his lethal passing attack. A lot of that will come down to Holmes who will be blocking those responsible in taking down Ryan from the right side.
It raises some questions as to how effective Holmes will be in the regular season. At times, he's looked solid and during others, he's looked somewhat bewildered. It would be different if the Falcons were in rebuild mode as there wouldn't be any real pressure for Holmes to learn everything so quickly. But the Falcons are in win now mode, they're in Super Bowl or bust mode. Can Atlanta afford to start someone with very little experience at this position that is so important with the expectations that surround this team?
The answer is that Lamar Holmes will be the starting Right Tackle of the Atlanta Falcons in 2013. Despite his inexperience, he appears to be the best man for the job. His success will equal Matt Ryan's success this year. If Holmes can provide solid protection throughout the year, (which he's shown he can do) Ryan should be ok. But if he can't, it could be an underachieving year for the Falcons.
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