Will Trueblood’s Promotion Improve the Falcons Offensive Line?
Earlier this week, the word came that Jeremy Trueblood would take over at right tackle moving forward. After two lackluster starts by second-year player Lamar Holmes at the position, Trueblood was inserted into the lineup in Week 3 against the Miami Dolphins, and apears to be an upgrade. If the Falcons continue to move forward with Trueblood, will it mean better things for the offensive line?
Firstly, we must look at Trueblood individually to see what he brings to the table that is different than Holmes. One of those things is that Trueblood’s pass protection has been an improvement. Through the first two weeks, Holmes allowed 1 sack, 5 pressures, and 7 hurries (per Moneyball reviews). In the past two, Trueblood has allowed no sacks, no pressures, and 6 hurries. Now it should be noted that Holmes faced tougher competition than Trueblood in his two starts at right tackle, facing Cameron Jordan and Chris Long for the Saints and Rams, respectively. Cameron Wake is a formidable matchup, but a knee injury limited him in Week 3, and he faced Trueblood for little more than a half-dozen snaps in that game. Trueblood’s strong performance that week came mostly against Derrick Shelby, a former undrafted free agent in 2012. Although it’s not as if Shelby is chopped liver, having recorded sacks in each of his first two games before facing the Falcons. In Week 4, Trueblood faced Rob Ninkovich and struggled giving up all six of his hurries. A hurry is not nearly as detrimental to the offense as a sack or pressure, but it’s still a negative.
Does Trueblood’s poor game against Ninkovich signal problems down the road? It might due to Ninkovich’s quickness and speed off the edge. Trueblood looks a bit stiff in pass protection and trying to adjust in space against a speedster like Ninkovich gave him problems throughout the night. Against Miami, facing a player like Shelby who doesn’t have that great first step and relied on his hands and power to get past Trueblood was an easier matchup. It suggests that moving forward Trueblood might continue to struggle against smaller, quicker ends, while the more “traditional” left end might be an easier matchup for him.
In the ground game, Trueblood isn’t a great run blocker. He’s not a guy that is going to move defenders off the ball. Run blocking wasn’t really a major issue for Holmes during his time at right tackle, but it is telling that the lesser amount of missed blocks leads to a lot more positive gains for the Falcons ground attack. In Holmes’ two starts at right tackle, the Falcons were successful on 9 of 16 (56.3-percent) of their runs to the right side. In Trueblood’s two starts, they are successful on 16 of 27 runs (59.3-percent). Not a major improvement, which suggests that perhaps right guard Garrett Reynolds is the more important constant in the team’s rushing success to the right.
Watching the tape, I don’t expect Trueblood to be a great right tackle for the Falcons. But I do think he’ll be an improvement over Holmes, and he’ll likely be prone to less mental mistakes, issues with poor technique, and the conditioning problems that Holmes was prone to in the first few games. That doesn’t mean that the Falcons offensive line will suddenly transform into a top unit. But it should mean that the Falcons can be more reliant on their offensive line moving forward, as it’s a step in the right direction. If that happens, and the Falcons can get improved play at left tackle and center for the rest of the year, it should mean more positive things for the Falcons front.