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Chalk Talk: Shanahan Discusses Offensive Line

Andrew Hirsh: I'd like to talk about the offensive line today. As a coordinator, is it hard to deal with so many moving parts this close to the regular season?

Kyle Shanahan: I look at it a different way. I'm happy to have them. I think these guys have helped us and improved us. I'm more excited that they're here. You always want to work with people for a long time, but that wasn't the case. I think the guys have done a great job since they got here and I'm really excited to have these new people. They make us better. It's up to us to make sure we keep getting better with them throughout the year.

AH: As a coach, what do you have to do to get these new guys prepared for Week 1?

KS: We have to be smart with what we ask them to do. I have a lot of confidence in Andy (Levitre) that he can handle a lot. But we also have to understand that he hasn't been here too long, so we can't throw too much at him. We have to be organized with what we ask him to do and the looks we put him through. It's been a very important week of practice for us for those reasons.

AH: When you bring new linemen into town, what do you emphasize the most when teaching the outside zone blocking scheme?

KS: Just how much we run (as linemen). I think we run more than most people. When we get on a guy, we don't just stop our feet and block him; we continue to run. We're trying to stretch people from sideline to sideline. I think that's usually the thing that's new for most people. They're not used to running as much as we do.

AH: Earlier you mentioned that Mike Person looks best at center. Why do you prefer him there over his natural position of guard?

KS: He's just a quick guy. He can control the offensive line from the inside. Any time you got guy who can reach his shape, usually center is where you want to put him at.

H: As Person and others acclimate to your style of football, how much does it help to have someone like Levitre who's spent a lot of time in a similar offense?

KS: Oh it helps. I remember when Andy was a free agent a few years ago before he went to Tenneseee. He was a guy that we were excited about when I was in Washington. To have the oportunity to have him now—I wish I could have had him four years ago. So, I'm excited about having him. I think he's made to do this system. So we'll see how he gets it.


AH:** Chester is another player with a lot of experience in the ZBS. How much has he helped Ryan Schraeder, who's used to downfield blocking, on the right side of the line?

KS: I think he's helped a lot. Any time a guy has done everything we've asked him to do, and he's done it—I think this is Chester's fifth year doing it—he can explain a lot of things we're asking. It helps the continuity of the O-line. The O-line is rarely about one person. It's about five people playing together. When you have experience in there, they usually move better together.

AH: Now healthy, Jake Matthews is set to line up next to Levtire on the left. That's huge. Where do you think he's at in his progression?

KS: Well he did a good job today. I'll go back and look at the film, but out there today we had him doing a lot and he seemed good. In my mind he's ready to go, so I'm excited to watch him play.

AH: Do you think he's back on track toward being a franchise LT?

KS: I think Jake has all the ability in the world. I think he's a good football player. I don't really look in those terms; I look at Jake doing his job. He doesn't try too much, he doesn't press. I think he can be a very solid player and be everything we want him to be.

AH: Without giving anything away, is there anything you're preaching to the O-line in particular on how to handle Philadelphia's defense?

KS: They just have to be on it. They're going to do a lot of stuff, a lot of stuff we haven't seen. They're a very schematic-oriented defense with a lot of talent, too. They have to be sharp; they have to see things right. And they can't second-guess themselves. So if they're looking all over the place and hesitating, they'll be by them and at our quarterback righ taway. so they have to make their calls and be confident on what they set and come off and block someone.

AH: During OTAs, you and a few other coaches mentioned that your offense tends to rely heavily on tight ends, so it was a little surprising to see just two make the active roster. What went into that decision?

KS: We had a couple injuries in that last (preseason) game and the third game. It happens. It's about putting the best 53 guys together, and I wish we could have 10 tight ends every year, 10 receivers and three quarterbacks. But it doesn't work out that way. You have to make sure you do the best for the team and that takes into account defense and special teams. With the injuries we had, we felt (Jacob Tamme and Levine Toilolo) are the two we could go with. I have a lot of confidence in these two. We won't miss a beat.


Several Falcons players spent Wednesday afternoon visiting fire stations in Metro Atlanta. The guys brought pizza and signed autographs to thank firefighters in Fulton, Gwinnett and Hall Counties.

AH:** As far as blocking goes, it seems like Toilolo has taken a big step forward. Would you agree?

KS: Yeah, I think so. Just from watching Levine on tape and then having him in OTAs to where we're at now—I think he's gotten better each day. I'm excited to watch him play on Monday and I hope it'll continue troughout the year.

AH: Pass protection from running backs is something the team has tried to improve over the last couple of years. Are Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman where they need to be in this regard?

KS: I think they've come a long way. Any time you have rookie backs, it takes them some time. I had to deal with that a lot last year (in Cleveland). Freeman's coming into his second year, so he's close to that in experience and reps. But these guys are a long way ahead of where they were a couple months ago. I'm real confident going into a game with them. Like everybody else, I just hope to improve as the year goes.

AH: With talents like Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, expectations for the offense are high. What do you expect your group to accomplish in 2015?

KS: My expectations have never changed. I want to be as good as we possibly can. I've never achieved that in my life, because you really never can be as good as you possibly can. So we're always working, never satisfied trying to be great. If we win this game I think we'll reach expectations.

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