FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Given the struggles of the league’s worst rushing offense, Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter spread the blame around to the linemen, tight ends, receivers and backs in terms of poor blocking.
But right guard Garrett Reynolds made sure to clarify that the onus should be on the offensive line. The guys up front have to be better at the point of attack.
"Clearly,’’ Reynolds said when asked if the line needs to block better. "That’s something we have to continue … we’ve got to get it right this week. So that’s something we’ve been working on.’’
The Falcons enter Sunday’s game at Carolina averaging a mere 62.4 rushing yards per game. Over the last two games, they’ve gained just 45 yards on 32 carries.
Both Koetter and head coach Mike Smith emphasized how poorly the team’s blocking was on the back side during Sunday’s 27-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Such a deficiency kept plays from developing in the first place as Steven Jackson really had no chance in his return from a hamstring injury. He managed just 6 yards on 11 carries, and an early 21-6 deficit forced Falcons QB Matt Ryan (career-high 61 pass attempts) to air it out most of the second half.
Successful back-side blocks are all about angles and tracks. Again, Reynolds assumed the blame on behalf of the line for the poor back-side blocking and vowed to correct it.
"Just making sure that you’re getting off on the snap and, if it’s a single block, just making sure you’re having good footwork,’’ Reynolds said. "If you’re by yourself, good footwork is the key. And if you’re working with your guard or your tackle, you just have to be on the same page.’’
It won’t be any easier this week against the league’s second-best run defense. The Panthers allow just 79.3 rushing yards per game.
"All teams, I think, have good players and tough defenses, but this week, their front guys are good players and explosive and strong guys,’’ Reynolds said. "We have to emphasize our footwork even more and getting off the snap.
"On the inside, they’re going to be rotating all those big boys the whole time. You know, they rotate quite a bit. So it’s going to be a lot of different guys to study and make sure you’re familiar with each guy and each guy’s favorite move and the way he likes to play certain blocks.’’
DEs Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson lead the Panthers up front, and they boast two great linebackers (Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis). It will be quite a challenge for the Falcons' offense. But, again, the onus will be on the line to help establish balance through the running game.
"We’ve got to control the line of scrimmage whether they’re in a seven-man front or an eight-man front,’’ Smith said.
Smith was asked to assess whether any of his offensive linemen have excelled with run blocking this season.
"I think that we’ve all had some positive and we’ve all had some negatives,’’ the coach said. "I don’t believe that we have done it consistently enough in terms of saying we’re running it well, because it’s really not about one guy when you’re run blocking. It’s about the unit up front. They’ve got to work together. They’ve got to see it out of the same eyes. And we just haven’t been consistent. And really, the last three games, it’s really stood out.’’