The Falcons offensive line was decimated with injuries during the 2014 season. With a valiant effort to improve the protection of Matt Ryan, the Falcons signed Jon Asamoah and drafted Jake Matthews earlier that spring. While it seemed to most that the Falcons now had enough talent in the trenches, season-ending injuries started to occur left and right.
Starters Sam Baker, Joe Hawley, Lamar Holmes and Peter Konz all suffered injuries at some point—that sidelined them for the remainder of the 2014 season.
Fast forward to 2015 XFINITY® Training camp.
All but one member of the Falcons offensive line is participating in some capacity of practice. Holmes is the only one that is not taking any snaps as he was just placed on the PUP list with a foot injury.
With the new zone-blocking scheme that Shanahan brings, the continuity of the offensive line will be essential. This scheme creates lanes for the run game and favors athletic, mobile linemen. If the offensive line can stay healthy, they certainly have the talent to execute and succeed in this system.
The previous two practices have featured one-on-one blocking drills and have showcased the talent and depth this position group has to offer. The line seems to be learning and adapting well to the new scheme.
"I like it. It's different and I think it plays well to the skillsets I have and also a lot of the other guys on the line," Matthews said. "Also, the biggest thing is that we have to come off the ball and be physical. We have to beat everyone off the snap. If we do that, I think we will do a lot of good things."
One player who can especially succeed in this offense is center Joe Hawley. The zone-block scheme is designed for guys that have exceptional footwork and athleticism, and Hawley most certainly has that.
"We found out that it takes a lot of speed and conditioning. It is key to be able to move and be athletic," Hawley said.
In order for the zone-block scheme to be effective, the guys have to be on the same page. Hawley, the leader of the offensive line, knows how important this is and is making sure that his group has the right mentality.
"The No. 1 thing is coming together as a group. The No. 2 thing is—when it comes to football— getting off the ball and firing off the ball and being intimidating as a unit," Hawley said.