|10-19-2006, 05:52 PM||#1|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Denver, CO
Falcons O-line doesn't want this kind of attention
So, looks like Gibbs implemented the Broncos zone scheme, as well as the O-Linemen avoiding the media in the ATL. Oh, and former Bronco Tyson Clabo will be starting this week.
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons' offensive line
is quite adept at avoiding the spotlight.
Each week, one member from their ranks is designated to talk
with the media. Everyone else clams up, supposedly under threat of
being fined for gabbing out of turn. Clearly, the last thing this
group wants is attention.
Well, they couldn't avoid it Wednesday after one of their own,
starting guard Matt Lehr, was given a four-game suspension for
violating the NFL's steroids policy.
While Lehr is hardly one of the league's premier linemen, he's
an integral part of a group that relies heavily on timing, footwork
and communication to pull off the zone blocking schemes that have
the Falcons on pace to lead the league in rushing for the third
year in a row.
"That's probably 70 percent of playing on this line -- knowing
what to do," said Wayne Gandy, who served as this week's
spokesman. "We know that the guys up front are the catalyst for
this whole offense. It's all about getting people blocked, getting
cracks for our running backs and Michael (Vick) to make plays."
Tyson Clabo, who has never played a down in the NFL, will take
Lehr's spot in the lineup for Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh
Steelers, one of the few teams in the league that uses the 3-4
The 6-foot-6, 314-pound Clabo wasn't drafted after his college
career at Wake Forest, where he played tackle. He was cut by three
teams during his first pro season in 2004, then waived again by
Denver before the start of last season. He hooked on with the
Falcons a couple of weeks later and spent all season on the
practice squad. His only playing experience came with the Hamburg
Sea Devils of NFL Europe.
Still, the Falcons insist that they expect no drop-off from Lehr
to Clabo -- even as they try to rebound from a dismal loss to the
New York Giants, who sacked Vick a career-high seven times and left
him with an aching shoulder.
"I'm still confident in our offensive line," said Vick, who
didn't practice Wednesday but will play against the Steelers.
"Things happen. I'm not concerned with the guy in (Lehr's) spot.
The guy has to know his responsibilities. He's a professional now.
This is another opportunity for a guy to step up and make a name
for himself. You have to look at it as a positive."
The Falcons' line takes its cue from Alex Gibbs, the guru of
zone blocking (and, to his detractors, the proponent of dangerous
cut blocks that expose defenders to serious injuries). Officially
known as a "consultant," it's clear the enigmatic Gibbs is in
charge of the line, from the virtual ban on talking with the media
-- a remnant of his days in Denver -- to the reliance on undersized,
unheralded linemen who are quick on their feet.
Lehr certainly falls into the unheralded category. A fifth-round
pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2001, he has started 42 of 63 games
in his career without a lot of fanfare. He signed with the Falcons
before last season, started all 15 games he played in and helped
them lead the league in rushing.
Atlanta (3-2) is on its way to another rushing title, eclipsing
200 yards in four of its first five games. The Falcons' average of
232 yards is nearly 74 yards ahead of the next team on the list,
Enter Clabo, who made the 53-man roster during training camp but
was inactive for the first five games.
"He's been in our system," coach Jim Mora said. "He's a very,
very smart kid. He knows what he's doing. Even though he's not
suited up or played, that's more from a numbers standpoint than
anything because we only dress seven offensive linemen. We all feel
good about him coming in and doing a good job."
Still, there are obstacles to overcome in the transition from
Lehr to Clabo. Besides the experience factor, Clabo is 4 inches
taller than the starter he's replacing.
"I had to make some adjustments," said Gandy, who as the left
tackle will line up beside Clabo. "He's so long and Matt is short.
You notice it when you're backing up and getting on the ball."
That said, the Falcons believe they can work a new starter into
the line without attracting much attention.
Which is just the way the like it.
"If we score a touchdown, the running back gets the credit,"
Gandy said. "But if we give up sacks, we get the blame. We can't
win. That's why we kind of like to stay anonymous."