- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons offensive line seems to change every week either due to injury or poor production.
Could it be at right tackle this time, where Jeremy Trueblood struggled and picked up a bad personal-foul penalty?
"Jeremy was out there competing, and competing very hard,’’ Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "I think he won some; we lost some. And I think there in the second half, our protection was not nearly as good as it was in the first half of the ball game.’’
Smith expressed his displeasure with Trueblood taking a swing at Saints defensive end Akiem Hicks after the whistle, which certainly doesn’t help Trueblood’s standing at this point. And Smith admitted he considered inserting rookie tackle Ryan Schraeder, who got first-team snaps at right tackle in the week leading up to the game. Schraeder was on the field for just two offensive snaps against the Saints.
Another option at right tackle could be recently signed veteran Sean Locklear, who has been inactive for two games since joining the team but could be ready when the team returns to action Dec. 1 against Buffalo.
"We’re going to look at getting Sean up to speed,’’ Smith said. "He’s just been with us a little over a week. We’ll try to get him up to speed and understanding what we’re trying to do in terms of verbiage. He is an option for us.
"We played Ryan Schrader, as well, in the game the past week [Tampa Bay]. … We’re going to continue to work to get the best five out there that will give us the best opportunity to protect our quarterback.’’
The only play Smith mentioned as being on solid ground was new center Joe Hawley, who took over for Peter Konz and put together back-to-back strong performances. Left guard Justin Blalock has been the team’s most consistent lineman, while right guard Garrett Reynolds was benched for the second consecutive game Thursday night. The Falcons might have to stick with Konz against the Bills.
And Sam Baker, who was the starting left tackle, just underwent successful season-ending knee surgery under celebrated orthopedist Dr. James Andrews.
As for the 30-year-old Trueblood, he has been benched twice already this season, so this could be the end of the line with him. He understood the reality after signing a one-year deal worth $840,000 back in September.
"I’m just here help us win, if I can, in any way, shape, or form,’’ Trueblood said. "If they decided to put someone else in there … I’m just going to help them as much as I can, if they want me to. If not, I’ll just sit back and be ready for my time. Right now, I’m just going to run with the opportunity and try to be the best player I can to help this team win.’’