#AskAndrew: Monday Falcons Mailbag

@andrewhirsh @AtlantaFalcons How concerned are you about the oline after Saturday? Maybe best dline in league and wasn't starters, but idk — Rise Up (@Had2GoThere) August 31, 2015

Nights like Saturday were bound to happen—especially in August—so I'm not terribly concerned at this point. Learning Kyle Shanahan's new offense is no easy task, and the coaches didn't expect everything to quickly fall into place. Keep in mind: The offensive linemen are still altering the way they approach their jobs, and though Saturday's game wasn't particularly encouraging, improvement will come. Fans just have to be patient. And, like you said, the Dolphins have a stellar defense. Miami's front seven will outplay a lot of teams this year.

Every zone blocking scheme requires offensive linemen to focus on a general area rather than a specific defender. After lining up for the snap, each guy has to ask himself, "Am I covered or uncovered?" If he's covered—meaning he's lined up facing an opponent—then he blocks the man in front of him. If not, he assists a teammate to his left or right.

The outside zone scheme, which the Falcons now employ, is the most common version of this system in today's NFL. Instead of pushing downfield, Atlanta's OL is instructed to step laterally off the snap. Footwork and communication are especially important when operating this way; if the five-man unit doesn't move cohesively, breakdowns will be inevitable.

The outside zone is known for producing a lot of successful ground attacks. Devonta Freeman is a big fan, as is Antone Smith, who once referred to it as "running back heaven."

Last week Dan Quinn said Jon Asamoah is a good pass protector and still very much in the mix. The Falcons are still trying to find the right combination at offensive line, so it's too early to write anyone off.

The Falcons always keep a close eye on available options, just like every other team. It's important to remember that mutual interest is needed to strike any deal. When talented athletes such as Evan Mathis, Tim Jennings and Fred Jackson hit the market, a lot of communication happens behind the scenes. Players mull over their options and consider geography, money, rosters, etc.; front offices ponder if these free agents can be locker room/schematic fits; and agents influence their clients in a number of ways. So when a potential acquisition signs elsewhere, that doesn't mean the Falcons didn't take a hard look and make an effort.

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