Thursday, January 16, 2014
O-line self-evaluation: Justin Blalock
By Vaughn McClure
(This is the last in an eight-part series of self-evaluations from the Atlanta Falcons offensive line following the 2013 season.)
Based on the struggles the Falcons' offensive line had as a whole this past season, it's hard to say any one lineman performed well. At least veteran left guard Justin Blalock was somewhat steady, although he admitted having his share of hiccups.
Blalock was the only regular starter not to get benched at some point during the season -- not counting left tackle Sam Baker, who underwent season-ending knee surgery. It was the seventh-consecutive season Blalock started all 16 games.
Going into 2014, the former second-round pick from Texas is set to count more than $7.5 million against the cap. It seems like a high number for someone who is not a Pro Bowl guard, but Blalock brings veteran leader and stability, which makes him a worthwhile investment for now.
Blalock was far from his satisfied with his performance this past season, as his comments below revealed. Here is his self-evaluation of the '13 season:
Justin Blalock Position: left guard
Contract status: Signed through 2016 ($7.66 million cap number in 2014)
2013 games played/starts: 16/16
Overview: Blalock was one of just two Falcons named to ESPN.com's All-NFC South team and received a positive grade (plus 6.8) from Pro Football Focus, which ranked the Falcons the second-worst offensive line in the league. Blalock felt he did a solid job pulling in the run game although the Falcons were miserable running the ball. It's hard to say anyone, include Blalock, pass protected well enough with Matt Ryan pressured on a league-leading 204 of his dropbacks.
Blalock's self-evaluation: "There's always something to get better at. Personally, I don't think I spoke up enough when I felt things weren't working. There were several times -- I don't want to say a scheme but maybe something I was doing -- where I beat my head against the wall and tried to figure where I could have done something better, but didn't. It wasn't necessarily something the coaches could have changed. It was more like something I just didn't do well. Maybe I should have asked for some different advice or something of that nature.
"Like a backside cutoff [block]. There were a lot of teams that made it tough, schematically, with the way linebackers would play to pull you off a double-team. And there were times, several times, they were trying to get movement on a down lineman and you think all week, 'I really have to come off and crush this down lineman' and then, it leaves a big hole for a linebacker to run through. And you're a little late getting on that guy because you really want to get movement. I should have done a better job of communicating so your partner in the block can help cover you if you have to go quicker. Sometimes, it's tough to say you need help. Sometimes, it's tough to communicate it. Stuff like that, I can do better.
"And when you're having turnover a lot [along the line], different guys see things different ways and like different cues. It takes some getting used to. And that was tough, at times.
"I felt pretty good about most of what we did last year -- or what I did, although I usually don't talk about myself."