Among the many buzzwords heard around the Atlanta Falcons practice facility in Flowery Branch this week is "communication," alluded to by the team's coaches as an area in need of on-the-field improvement. The Falcons offense received extra practice communicating in Week 6, utilizing a silent count, due to noise generated by Chicago Bears fans.
Whether Falcons QB Matt Ryan is using verbal or nonverbal communication, he's doing so with third-year center Peter Konz, who replaced Joe Hawley (season-ending knee injury) in Week 4. Konz is shouldering a great deal of responsibility, from the moment the huddle breaks to the completion of the play. Here are just some of Konz's tasks, before the ball is snapped:
- Identify the defensive front
- Locate the linebackers
- Analyze safety rotations
- Visualize possible blitz packages and stunts
Once Konz accomplishes those tasks, he then actually starts the play, snapping the ball to Ryan, admitting the Falcons QB shoulders an even heavier task. Ryan knows each and every responsibility of his offensive linemen, his tight ends, wide receivers and running backs; he also needs to know where he's protected, what blitzes may be coming and how long he has to get rid of the ball, each predicated on communication with his center.
The Atlanta Falcons are coming off a three-game losing streak and will be taking on the Baltimore Ravens away during Sunday's match-up. Keep an eye on these storylines heading into this week's game.
"We're always talking and always communicating about what we need to do," Konz said. "When Matt and I are sitting in the same room, watching the same film, as an O-lineman, I give him perspective on how I might see something (and) if it sounds funny to him or if vice versa, we need to be communicating, so that everybody understands what we're saying, so that we're on the same page."
Konz is a more-polished player than one year ago, saying that he's quicker to make the necessary calls at the line, doing so boisterously, filled with a confidence that's been noticed by Ryan. The communication between center and QB has to be on-point and carry over to the rest of the team, especially facing a tough road test against the Baltimore Ravens.
"That's one of the challenges of going on the road," Ryan said. "It always puts a stress on communication. I think that's an area where we can improve. The way to do that is to be better in your meetings, better at practice and make sure that we know our plan inside and out, so that when we get there, we understand our signals, all those kinds of things, and we can execute the way that we're capable of."