Outside of Dan Quinn making changes to his coaching staff, the biggest storyline heading into the Falcons 2019 season was the offensive line.
In short, it needed an overhaul.
Matt Ryan was not only sacked 42 times in 2018 – prompting Falcons owner Arthur Blank to note that one of the things he’s learned in his 19 years as owner is “that Matt plays much better vertically than horizontally” – but the Falcons also finished the year with the 27th-ranked rushing attack.
But even after investing heavily on the offensive line – in free agency and in the draft – it is painfully apparent after 12 games that the Falcons still have a major problem in the trenches.
In the Falcons’ 26-18 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Thanksgiving Day – a game that Atlanta somehow managed make interesting with 38 seconds remaining after recovering a pair of onside kicks – Ryan was sacked a career-high nine times.
“Our unit’s job is to protect the passer [and] we didn’t do a good job of that tonight,” guard Jamon Brown said.
Falcons quarterbacks have now been sacked 38 times. With four games left to go, Atlanta is on pace to surrender 50 sacks this season.
Not only is Ryan taking a beating, but the Falcons running game is also heading in the wrong direction. Atlanta is averaging 72.9 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 31st in the NFL. Only the Miami Dolphins are worse, averaging 63.2 yards per game.
Atlanta signed guards James Carpenter and Brown on the first day of free agency. In April, they drafted guard Chris Lindstrom 14th overall before trading back into the first round to select tackle Kaleb McGary at No. 31.
While Lindstrom looked promising during training camp and in the preseason, the rookie was placed on injured reserve after hurting his foot in the Falcons’ Week 1 loss to the Vikings and hasn’t even practiced since then.
Following Atlanta’s 35-22 to the Buccaneers last week, a game in which Ryan was sacked six times and the Falcons only managed 57 rushing yards, coach Dan Quinn said he would consider making changes and eventually opted to start Wes Schweitzer over Brown against the Saints.
None of the changes up front have worked and three quarters into the season, the Falcons are right back to where they started: In need of a major overhaul.