Working in most of the players on this year’s line’s favor is they played with McClure and Clabo during their Falcons careers. No one expects to replace that much experience, but the men in the offensive line room this year can take what they learned and move forward with the same mentoring they received.
“The great thing about it is the guys that were in that room with them learned a lot,” Falcons offensive line coach Pat Hill said. “So now it’s their turn to verbalize it. I think it’s good. There are a lot of new voices and a lot of new things that are going on. They’ll reach back to what they heard before and what they’ve been taught.”
Hill said the changing of the leadership guard is like any other company structure. Younger executives are groomed for the top jobs by the current leaders. Eventually those young employees will become the leaders and the same is true for the Falcons this year.
“We’ve had some good drafts the last few years,” Johnson said recently. “We’re kind of ready to get our shot at things.”
McClure and Clabo were big personalities for the Falcons and helped create a tight-knit culture among the linemen. That culture appears to be well in-tact and one of the O-line trademarks — coming out of the practice field locker room as practice begins animatedly boisterous — continues on this year.
One of the focuses Hill has tried to instill in each of his players this year with the absence of their previous leadership has been personal leadership. Hill said his players are leading themselves and making sure to be prepared each day and the rest will fall into place.
Ryan, whose investment in the ability of the offensive line is as high as anyone’s, recently singled out second-year center
The influence of Clabo and McClure is still there in personality. The offensive line is as fun and free-spirited as always, but this year they’re taking what they’ve learned in the past and adding their own personality to create a new dynamic.
Watching and learning from previous players has been a valuable experience for players like Johnson, and this season they’re adjusting and forging a new path.
“We’ve tried to fill in as best we can for the vacancy he left,” Johnson said. “It’s just one of those things where you have to come out each day and kind of adjust to it. We’ve got some good guys in our room so I think we’ve adjusted well so far.”