Packers to test Falcons revamped offensive line
The Sports Xchange
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Before the Atlanta Falcons face the Green Bay Packers in the regular-season home opener at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and his staff plan to settle down new starting right guard Wes Schweitzer, get the rushing attack moving and eliminate the bulk of the 11 missed tackles they had in the season-opening win.
Schweitzer, a sixth-round pick out of San Jose State in 2016, won the starting right guard battle over Ben Garland. He didn’t play in any games last season and made his NFL debut against the Bears.
It was forgettable performance as he struggled in pass protection and the run game. Schweitzer allowed a sack, a quarterback hit and one hurry. He accounted for three of the four total pressures.
“I thought he had his moments where it went well, but there were definitely moments in protection where he gave up a sack, there was a TFL,” Quinn said.
Green Bay defensive tackle Mike Daniels is coming off a strong performance against Seattle. Daniels and Clark dominated Seattle’s interior offensive line of right guard Mark Glowinski, left guard Luke Joeckel and center Justin Britt as the Packers only played a few snaps in their base4 alignment.
Daniels, who camped out in Seattle’s backfield, had seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, four quarterback hits, a tackle for a loss and a forced fumble.
Falcons center Alex Mack and left guard Andy Levitre are much better than Seattle’s linemen, but Schweitzer is coming off a tough NFL debut against Chicago’s Akiem Hicks.
“It’s another really stout front, and just to name a few guys like Mike Daniels and Nick Perry, who were active in the (Seattle) game,” Quinn said.
The Falcons are sticking with Schweitzer.
“I’m hopeful that he makes the adjustments and improvements heading forward,” said Quinn, who noted that Schweitzer was one of six players making their NFL debuts. “It was a tough first draw, but I anticipate him improving as we go. He’s a tough and smart competitor. I anticipate that getting better.”
Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman were held to 53 yards rushing on 20 carries. On some runs, there was a little too much dancing in the Falcons’ outside zone scheme which requires the running backs to make decisive cuts.
Other times, there just wasn’t any room to run.
Coleman had eight rushes for 16 yards and Freeman had 37 yards on 12 carries.
“There were times where we could have stuck our foot in the ground and go as a back,” Quinn said. “There were other times when there really wasn’t much space for them.”
The blocking must be in unison in the Falcons’ scheme, where one block could lead to a run getting stuffed.
“We have to make sure that all of us, tight ends, fullbacks or the center and the guard (are blocking),” Quinn said. “We have to be an extension of each other in the run game. ... especially in the run game where we want to press the line of scrimmage and get north-south.”
The Falcons’ offense is predicated on running the ball and then having Matt Ryan pass off the play-action fakes. If the run is stuffed, they become one-dimensional. They got lucky against Bears when Ryan burned them for an 88-yard touchdown play to tight end Austin Hooper after a defensive breakdown.
“I thought we gave it the right amount of reps going into it, but we weren’t pleased with the outcome and play-action that goes along with it,” Quinn said.
Falcons defensive tackle Dontari Poe, who was signed in free agency, had a strong debut with his new team against the Chicago Bears.
Poe played 43 snaps and led the team with three quarterback hurries and one quarterback hit.
“It was good, although it may not have shown up on the stats sheet,” Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said. “One of the passes deflected, and I thought he missed a sack on the one that Adrian Clayborn hit him on, so I felt his presence inside.”
The Falcons didn’t re-sign longtime Falcons Jonathan Babineaux and Tyson Jackson over the offseason. They were essentially replaced by Poe and Jack Crawford in free agency.
Poe signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Falcons.
“I felt him push the pocket,” Quinn said. “They really didn’t take a lot of shots down the field. It was more of a quicker passing game. For me, I wanted to see the get-off, and with him being lighter could he really affect the game in that way.”
Rookie fares well
Falcons rookie defensive end Takkarist McKinley, who was selected in the first round (26th overall) of the 2017 draft played 14 snaps in his NFL debut against the Bears.
He had two tackles and two quarterback hurries off bull rushes.
“I really felt his speed off the edge,” Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said. “In particular, one play where it was a pass that was thrown and he came out of the stack to make a tackle. Those are the plays that are really his style. It’s quintessential Takk Mckinley speed, effort, and toughness.”
Against the Bears, the Falcons stayed in the base defense for more than 51 percent of their 67 defensive snaps.
“We didn’t play as much nickel in this game as we do normally, and I anticipate that his reps will ramp up each week as we go,” Quinn said.
NOTES: RB Brian Hill (ankle) was inactive for the opener against the Bears. He returned to practice and was limited on Wednesday. ... T Austin Pasztor (chest/pectoral muscle) was listed on the injury report, but fully participated in practice. ... C Alex Mack (back), LB/SS Kemal Ishmael (hamstring), LB Duke Riley (knee) and TE Eric Saubert (hamstring) were limited in practice.