Tice wants O-line to be Falcons' engine

May, 30, 2014
5/30/14
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It's interesting to see new Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice conduct a drill session.

He doesn't hold back with his foul language, of course. He constantly reminds his linemen not to dip with their helmets. And for as much as he might berate a player for making a mistake, that's how much Tice applauds the same player when he gets it right.

Tice's "tough love" works. And it's going to take plenty of it to help the Falcons' line transform into an asset rather than a liability.

It helps when you draft a NFL-ready player in right tackle Jake Matthews, a rookie Tice has constantly praised from the outset. Not to mention adding a solid veteran in right guard Jon Asamoah.

"The addition of Jon, the addition of Gabe [Carimi], and hopefully the growth of guys like [Ryan] Schraeder, and [Lamar] Holmes, and Joe Hawley taking that next step and Pete [Konz] becoming a better player, I think that makes you better," Tice said. "And then we'll see how it goes with some of these even younger guys like [Terren] Jones. We moved Adam [Replogle] over and he's getting better. I think we've got a good group."

But, as Tice put it, you can't really evaluate linemen in underwear, so there is much more work to be done with the line. Sure, the group looks bigger and stronger, true to the Falcons' offseason theme. None of that will matter, however, if the line gets pushed around come Sept. 7 against the New Orleans Saints.

Tice realizes the task he has ahead of him and the importance of his group improving drastically.

"I know in my time, I've looked at the offensive line and the offense as a whole as a fancy sports car," Tice said. "You have your spokes -- your rims, they tell me don't say spokes -- your rims, and your fancy paint jobs, and your tinted windshields and windows. And then you have your engine.

"You know, the offensive line has to be the engine that let's the fancy rims and the paint job look good. And so if the engine's not working, the paint job looks like (crap), quite frankly. So that's how we're going to approach it in our room. We're the engine and we have to be the ones that fuel all those great players we have in the skill positions, because we have a bunch of them."

The Falcons ranked dead last in rushing last year because blocking up front was porous. They allowed Matt Ryan to be the most pressured quarterback in the league because they weren't physical up front.

Tice aims to change all that, starting with the protection of Ryan.

"I've always felt that people that say you can't by physical in pass [protection] don't know what they're talking about," Tice said. "I think we've got to change some mindsets around here, and that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to change the mindsets of the guys up front to understand that if there's a 60-play game, you're in 60 boxing matches."

The Falcons' line simply has to win its fair share of those brawls.

Vaughn McClure

ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter

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