Andrew Hirsh:Thanks for taking the time to chat. Now that we're five games into the season, what are your overall thoughts on the Falcons' offense?
Todd McClure: It's just unbelievable, the weapons they have on offense and the way Matt is able to spread the ball around. It's hard for a defense to decide who they're going to try to stop, and when they try to stop Julio, he's able to get it to Tamme and Sanu and the rest of those guys. And the running back combination — I mean, it's just unreal. It's kind of a pick-your-poison offense. Pick the guy you want to stop, and the rest of the guys are going to go make plays. It's fun to watch. Really fun to watch.
AH: The Falcons enjoyed a lot of offensive success during your career. It's still early, but where do you think this group ranks among the offenses you've seen in Atlanta?
TM: It's got to be up there. Like you said, it's early in the season, but, I mean, you look at where they're ranked in first in the league. I can't ever remember being first in that many categories. In 2004 we led the league in rushing, but they're at the top of the league in a bunch of categories. And I hope that trend continues.
AH: You know as well as anyone how important the center position is in the NFL. How have you felt Alex Mack has played so far?
TM: He's been unbelievable. Alex was a guy that I watched while I was playing. I would turn on game film if we were playing a common opponent, I'd see how he played against those guys. I love his energy. You hear guys talk about his focus and his leadership. I'm a little biased and think a lot of things start at that center position, and Alex is an unbelievable player. As you can tell, the offense is reaping the benefits.
AH: Why do you think Mack is such a good fit in the outside zone blocking scheme?
TM: Compared to a lot of centers, he's an athletic, slender-built guy that can move. He knows his angles and is really good with his hands. And to run that zone scheme, you have to have a guy who can climb to that second level and get his hands on a linebacker. You watch Alex play, and he does that a lot. He's able to get to that second level, and it creates those big runs.
AH: How do you think his presence in the middle affects the guards and tackles around him?
TM: It affects them a bunch. The center — I know it's a cliche — but he's the quarterback of the offensive line. When you're confident in your center who you trust, when you've got one voice, and he comes up and he sets the protection calls and makes the calls at the line of scrimmage, everything just moves so much more fluid. Alex does a great job of that.
AH: As someone who played with Ryan for many years, how much do you think it helps him to have that steady presence at center?
TM: It helps him a bunch. The center can take a lot off the quarterback's plate. I used to help Matt with watching the play clock, letting him know when it's getting close. Because he has a lot going through his mind: Getting the play in through the earpiece, trying to call the play, making sure he has the right personnel in the huddle. And the little things — every little thing you can take off his plate, it makes it easier for him to go out and execute and get the ball in his playmakers' hands. When he can trust that his center is going to put him in the right protection, get the right calls, then he doesn't have to micromanage or worry. He can just do what he's paid to do. And it's obviously working well for him this year.
AH: What do you think is the most important quality Mack has brought to the Falcons?
TM: Just his leadership. I don't know this for a fact, but you can tell — this is my observation — he's a guy that studies a lot of film and knows his assignments and plays with a lot of confidence. When he goes out there and does that, it kind of spreads throughout the rest of the offensive line. They may see the way he studies film, the way he prepares, and sometimes when you do that as a leader of a group, the rest of the group will follow. And I'd imagine Alex is the same way.