The Falcons had their share of struggles protecting quarterback Matt Ryan during the 2011 season, but one player on the offensive line was among the best in the league at pass protecting for the entire season.
Tyson Clabo's rise to prominence in the NFL is one of the least-talked-about feel-good stories in the league and a 2010 Pro Bowl appearance solidified his place among the league's top right tackles.
Clabo began his career as an undrafted free agent and practice squad player for two different franchises before joining the practice squad of the Falcons in 2005. Solid 2006 and 2007 seasons earned Clabo an opportunity to start full time in 2008 and he's started every game since.
Although Clabo didn't make the Pro Bowl in 2011, his season still stands as one of the better ones at his position.
The NFL statistical and performance website ProFootballFocus.com released their offensive tackles pass blocking rankings on Monday and Clabo finds himself near the top as expected.
Using a complicated scoring system that accounts for pass rushing hits, hurries and sacks divided by the number of times a player pass blocks after review of every snap in every game of the season, PFF graded Clabo's season as a 96.5, the eighth-highest ranking in the league among tackles that took 200 or more snaps.
Clabo's rating was second among NFC tackles with 300 or more snaps, behind only Philadelphia's Jason Peters. The Falcons' right tackle, according to the rankings, was better than two of the three tackle representatives on the NFC roster (Peters was the other).
The consistent play modeled by Clabo since 2008 is magnified when you consider how many snaps he took during the 2011 season. His 635 snaps was second among all tackles listed in the Top-20, behind Cleveland's Joe Thomas. Of those snaps over the season, Clabo allowed only 28 pressures to Matt Ryan.
Clabo joined left guard Justin Blalock as one of the key free-agent re-signings last season and the two combine to provide the Falcons with a talented core to build the remainder of the line around. His pass blocking is elite level and he's shown during his time in Atlanta that his run blocking is a force to be reckoned with.
It all adds to Clabo being a player Falcons fans should feel good about, a cornerstone of protection for the franchise.