Todd McClure was one of the NFL's best centers for more than a decade, and a big reason for his success was the way he studied opponents at his position. One of the players he admired most was Alex Mack.
Whenever the Falcons were set to take on a team who recently played Cleveland, McClure would watch every single one of the Browns' offensive snaps. He'd observe the way Mack approached defensive tackles, the way he'd direct Cleveland's O-line.
Now a Falcon himself, Mack is expected to provide stability at center. And McClure, the last person to bring long-term consistency to that spot, is thrilled with the move.
"I think it's a great, great signing for the Falcons," McClure said. "It's an area when you don't have a good center, the whole thing's difficult. So I know Matt Ryan is going to be extremely happy. The Falcons got better on third down, blitz pickup; the whole offense will be better with Alex Mack."
Mack will be asked to play in an outside zone blocking scheme, which he learned in 2014, back when he and Kyle Shanahan were both in Cleveland. Built for that system and able to move well laterally, getting up to speed shouldn't be a problem for the three-time Pro Bowler.
"I think he fits in perfectly," McClure said. "He's a really athletic guy. Smart. You can see it in the way he plays the game.
"The biggest thing is he'll take some pressure off of Matt. He won't have to worry about shotgun snaps. Having a good center takes a lot of pressure off what the quarterback has to think about. That's what comes along with the job—just taking some things off the quarterback's plate so he can do what he has to do."
In addition to helping Ryan, Mack should be able to assist his fellow linemen, too—especially the guards. Mack is considered a highly intelligent athlete, and with him calling out assignments and making changes at the line of scrimmage, every other Falcon in the trenches should benefit from his presence.
"That's what Alex Mack can do for the offensive line," said McClure. "A guy who's been around that long—he'll make everyone else around him better."
One concern about Mack is his age: Set to turn 31 in November, he'll be in his mid-30s when his new deal expires. Will that be a problem?
"No, I don't think so," McClure predicted. "He'll be fine. He's the kind of guy who can play out that contract. The Falcons will receive great benefits from him."