Atlanta Falcons Blog

Atlanta Falcons blog by D. Orlando Ledbetter, the pro football and Atlanta Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

COVER 9@9 -- Where does Jake Long fit?

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1. WHERE DOES JAKE LONG FIT?: Where does Jake Long fit in the scheme of the Falcons’ reloaded offensive line unit?

Here’s a look at current official depth chart (offseason additions in bold):

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 79 Tyler Polumbus, Jake Long

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 62 James Stone

C 68 Mike Person, 66 Gino Gradkowski

RG 65 Chris Chester, 62 James Stone

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 72 Bryce Harris

Practice squad: T Pierce Burton, G Ben Garland

Injured reserved: G Jon Asamoah

Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform: T Lamar Holmes

Long, 30, is going to start out as the third-string left tackle. The Falcons plan to make him a swing tackle.

That’s the guy who backs up the left and right tackle and can swing to either side.

Long, who is 6-foot-7, 315 pounds, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was tabbed two picks later. Long has started 96 NFL games with the Dolphins and Rams, mostly at left tackle. He played some right guard with the St. Louis Rams.

Before a string of injuries, Long was considered one of the top tackles in the NFL. He’s a four-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro first-team member.

He’s coming to Atlanta to try to revive his career. He's bet on himself by taking just a one-year contract.

He told Falcons head coach Dan Quinn that he just wanted an opportunity to compete. After workouts with Denver and the New York Giants, the Falcons were the first team to give him that opportunity.

So, while Long is trying to recapture his greatness, the Falcons can carry on with Matthews and Schraeder. If there’s a rash of injuries like they have had over the past two seasons, the backup tackle should be Long in a couple of weeks.

If Matthews or Schrader start to falter, then they have an alternative, who’s been to a few Pro Bowls.

2. WHAT HAPPENED TO JAKE LONG?: How do you go from the No. 1 overall player taken in the draft to being out of football?

Was it all just injuries?

Let’s review the injury history.

He’s finished the last four seasons on injured reserve. He hasn’t played in an NFL game since Oct. 26, 2014 in a 34-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

In 2014, Long played in seven games before suffering a second torn ACL in his right knee.

In 2013, Long played 15 games before he tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee. His right knee buckled on the third play of the game against Tampa Bay. He was merely setting up to pass block. Rams coach Jeff Fisher called it a "non-contact" injury.

In 2012, he played 12 games before he suffered a torn left triceps and was placed on injured reserve.

In 2011, he played 15 games. His streak of 61 straight starts was snapped with a back injury and he was later placed on injured reserve with a torn right triceps.

He's been cleared to play by Dr. James Andrews and the Falcons plan to shake the rust of his game and see if Long has anything left.

3. DiMARCO’S ROLE: Falcons fullback Pat DiMarco had a strong first game against the Eagles. He makes the offense more versatile, because can lead-block and catch passes out of the backfield.

“We shift him out,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “We can pull him out of the backfield. He can catch.”

He had a few good blocks to spring the running backs against the Eagles.

“He had a terrific contact on one of the outside runs,” Quinn said. “I think it was to Devonta (Freeman). He did a nice job in protection as well.”

While Julio Jones, Ricardo Allen and Ryan, hauled down the highlights, guys like DiMarco give the team some soul. They do the dirty work.

“Sometimes we use his pads at fullback, other times we line him up like he’s an off tight end and can be on the move,” Quinn said. “I think it’s his football smarts, his versatility that makes him such a unique guy for us.”

4. NO LIP SERVICE TO BALANCE: Falcons coach Dan Quinn was serious about balancing out the offense.

The Falcons had 35 rushes and 34 pass attempts against the Eagles, nearly a 50-50 split.

“The balance is something that we are looking for,” Quinn said. “We have got to stay committed in that way as we strive to have the run game that we want.”

The run game sets up the play action passes and the bootlegs (Bootleg tip: Ryan has to slide past the first down marker or take it to the first-down stick out of bounds.)

There’s room for improvement.

The Falcons were short of averaging 4 yards per carry (35 for 105, 3 yards per carry) and couldn’t run out the clock late in the game.

“For our first time out, I’m pleased with where we are at in terms of the balance,” Quinn said. “From here, we just have to see how much better we can get at our game. Right now, we are nowhere near as good as we’re going to be. I like knowing what that feels like that there is a lot of work that we need to do to get better.”

5. RYAN WOES: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan nearly threw four interceptions against the Eagles. One was because wide receiver Julio Jones slipped on a cut.

Last season, Ryan only had three games where he threw two or more interceptions. They were all in losses to Cincinnati (three), Minnesota (two) and Carolina (two).

The Falcons are now 12-13 when Ryan throws at least two interceptions in a game.

6. UNDER PRESSURE: My theory as to why Ryan was a little off against the Eagles was that he wasn’t used to having a clean pocket.

After two years of dodging linemen, Ryan had a calm pocket for the first time.

The numbers back up this bizarre theory.

He was pressured on 5 of 37 dropbacks (13.5 percent).

Last season, he was pressured on 35.2 percent of his snaps. In 2013, the pressure number was a little higher, around 37 percent.

Profootball focus points to offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s scheme and the revamped offensive line for Ryan's improved protection.

7. OFFENSIVE LINE GRADES: As expected, left guard Andy Levitre and center Mike Person, who made his first NFL start, were the two linemen with the lowest grades against the Eagles.

Levitre, who had just two padded practices to prepare, had a tough time with Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. He have up one hit and one sack and graded poorly in the run game. Right guard Chris Chester had the third highest grade in the league for his position.

8. QUINN FINE WITH BEASLEY'S FIRST OUTING: Falcons defensive end Vic Beasley didn't have a statistically strong first game, but Quinn was pleased with the outing.

Beasley, who played 44 snaps, had just two pressures on 32 pass rush snaps. The Falcons need more pressure than that.

However, Beasley had a tough first assignment in Eagles left tackle Jason Peters, a seven-time Pro Bowler.

“That was definitely a welcome-to-the-NFL matchup,” Quinn said. “We have such great respect for Peters and the way that he plays. There was some real signs from the get-offs, that we had (Peters) going back. … I thought he had a good first start.”

9. TEAM'S DEPTH CHART RELEASED FOR GIANTS' GAME: Here's the team's depth chart that was in the game release for Sunday's game against the New York Giants:


WR 11 Julio Jones, 85 Leonard Hankerson, 16 Justin Hardy

LT 70 Jake Matthews, 79 Tyler Polumbus, Jake Long

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 62 James Stone

C 68 Mike Person, 66 Gino Gradkowski

RG 65 Chris Chester, 62 James Stone

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 72 Bryce Harris

TE 83 Jacob Tamme, 80 Levine Toilolo

WR 84 Roddy White, 17 Devin Hester, 14 Eric Weems, 15 Nick Williams

QB 2 Matt Ryan, 12 Sean Renfree

RB 26 Tevin Coleman, 24 Devonta Freeman, 33 Terron Ward

FB 42 Patrick DiMarco


DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 99 Adrian Clayborn, 71 Kroy Biermann

DT 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 97 Grady Jarrett

NT 96 Paul Soliai, 95 Jonathan Babineaux

DE 94 Tyson Jackson, 93 Malliciah Goodman

LB 52 Justin Durant, 59 Joplo Bartu

LB 55 Paul Worrilow, 53 Allen Bradford, 54 Nate Stupar

LB 50 O’Brien Schofield, 56 Brooks Reed

CB 23 Robert Alford, 32 Jalen Collins

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 20 Phillip Adams, 22 Dezmen Southward

S 37 Ricardo Allen, 27 Robenson Therezie

S 25 Wiliam Moore, 36 Kemal Ishmael


K 3 Matt Bryant

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 17 Devin Hester, 14 Eric Weems

PR 17 Devin Hester, 14 Eric Weems

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.