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D. Orlando Ledbetter

Todd McClure: Oline coach ‘can make a big difference’

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We wanted to chat with Falcons coach Mike Smith about the hiring of Mike Tice.

But we were told that Smith wanted to keep grinding away on getting the defensive line coaching candidates interviewed. He wants to have his staff in place before the Falcons leave to coach in the Senior Bowl.

Otherwise, he’d be mobbed by every unemployed coach in America and that would take time away from scouting and coaching the prospects.

So, I’m going to save my questions here, so when he comes up for air, we don’t forget them even though they won’t be as newsworthy.

Former Falcons center Todd McClure lead the line out of the tunnel.

Former Falcons center Todd McClure lead the line out of the tunnel.

–Why Tice?

–How many people did the Falcons interview?

–Why didn’t the Falcons wait for Jeff  Davidson who could be let go when Minnesota gets a new coach?

–Did you call your buddy Mike Munchak (I guess the Titans vs. Falcons practices in Dalton are off?)

–Did you all talk to Bruce Matthews?

–Tice’s seven lines have not protected the passer very well, but have been strong running lines. How does that fit the Falcons’ offensive scheme?

–Why another former member from the Jacksonville staff? Was he best candidate or did you value loyalty and fit over a new possibly unfamiliar more-talented coach?

So with Coach Smith and Tice unavailable, we turned to one of our offensive line experts, retired center Todd McClure.

He believes Tice, and his tough guy persona, can help the Falcons.

“He has great schemes,” McClure said. “I think if you look at where ever he goes, he’s been probably top five in rushing and I think that’s what these guys are looking for, to get the rushing game back going. From everything that I hear, his schemes and everything are great.”

McClure was a seventh-round pick (237th overall)  in 1999. After suffering a knee injury, he broke into the lineup in 2000. He started 194 of 197 games over the next 13 seasons before being forced into retirement last season.

McClure wanted to return, but the Falcons wanted to clear the way for Peter Konz to take over at center. McClure, a lifetime Falcons, didn’t want to continue on with another team and retired.

When the Falcons thought Konz may have a broken ankle early last season, they called McClure  to check on his availability. He was ready to return, but Konz’ ankle checked out and he was able to carry on.

McClure  played for four different head coaches and knows what kind of impact a good offensive line coach can have. He was a product of Alex Gibbs’ zone-blocking system.

“I think they can make a big difference,” McClure said. “I know that Alex Gibbs kind of changed my career. He kind of ran the show. If he told you something, it wasn’t going to change. That’s just how it was. A coach can make a big difference, but you must have right guys to make the change also. You know, the right players.”

A new line coach probably saved Justin Blalock’s career. As a rookie and second-round pick, he played under Mike Summers, a first-year NFL coach on Bobby Petrino’s staff. Blalock was a hot mess and benched during his rookie season.

He regrouped under long-time offensive line coach Paul Boudreau, who came in with Smith in 2008, and has flourished.

Tice is going to get a chance to help Konz and tackle Lamar Holmes reach their potential. He could also get the No. 6 pick and some free agents to help with the talent level. The Falcons need to make decisions on prospective free agents center/guard Joe Hawley (bring him back!!!!), Mike Johnson (bring him back!!!!), tackle Jeremy Trueblood and tackle Sean Locklear.

In addition to getting in the weight room, the linemen must buy what Tice is selling, which should be a big 10-gallon can of “Whoop- Ass.”

“You’ve got to buy into what he’s selling,” McClure said. “When Gibbs came in, if I can remember, he knew the type of guys that he wanted and he went and got them. He was the voice and he knew what type of guys he had to have for his scheme and they allowed him to go get them. It worked out for us when he was here.”

Whether the Falcons believe they have the right players, we’ll see over the next few months in free agency and in the draft.

We’ll get into rating the free agents later, but here’s a list of the prospectives.

PROSPECTIVE UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT TACKLES

Jordan Gross,  Carolina; Zach Strief, New Orleans; Eugene Monroe, Baltimore; Anthony Collins, Cincinnati; Branden Albert, Kansas City; Rodger Saffold, St. Louis; Eben Britton, Chicago; J’Marcus Webb, Minnesota; Dennis Roland, Cincinnati; Andrew Gardner, Houston; Bruce Campbell, Carolina; Jonathan Scott, Chicago; Mike Johnson, Atlanta ; Sean Locklear, Atlanta; Breno Giacomini, Seattle; Tony Pashos, Oakland; Winston Justice, Denver; Tyson Clabo, Miami; Austin Howard, New York Jets; Jason Fox, Detroit; Jeremy Trueblood, Atlanta; Sam Young, Jacksonville; Will Svitek, New England; Ryan Harris, Houston; Jared Veldheer, Oakland; Mike Otto, Tennessee; Guy Whimper, Pittsburgh; Charles Brown, New Orleans; Marshall Newhouse, Green Bay; Michael Oher, Baltimore; Eric Winston, Arizona; Khalif Barnes, Oakland and Bryant McKinnie, Miami.

PROSPECTIVE UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT GUARDS

Travelle Wharton, Carolina; Geoff Schwartz, Kansas City; Jon Asamoah, Kansas City; Shelley Smith, St. Louis: Richie Incognito, Miami; Mike Pollak, Cincinnati; Brian Waters, Dallas; Garry Williams; Carolina; Willie Colon, New York Jets; Geoff Hangartner, Carolina; Chad Rinehart, San Diego; Rich Ohrnberger, San Diego; John Jerry, Miami; Charlie Johnson, Minnesota; Zane Beadles, Denver; Jeff Linkenbach, Indianapolis; Vladimir Ducasse, New York Jets: Wade Smith, Houston; Kevin Boothe, New York Giants; Jamon Meredith, Buffalo; Shawn Lauvao; Cleveland; Oniel Cousins, Cleveland; Chris Williams, St. Louis; Mike McGlynn, Indianapolis; Paul McQuistan, Seattle; David Diehl, New York Giants.

PROSPECTIVE UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT CENTERS

 Dominic Raiola, Detroit; Alex Mack, Cleveland; Evan Dietrich-Smith, Green Bay; Roberta Garza, Chicago; Jonathan Goodwin, San Francisco; Brian  De La Puente, New Orleans; Steve Vallos, Denver; Joe Hawley, Atlanta; Dylan Gandy, Detroit; Dan Koppen, Denver; J.D. Walton, Washington; Mike Gibson, Arizona; Ryan Cook, Dallas; Joe Berger, Minnesota; Chris Spencer, Tennessee; Cody Wallace, Pittsburgh; Fernando Velasco, Pittsburgh; Andre Gurode, Oakland; Ted Larsen, Tampa Bay; Brad Meester, Jacksonville; Robert Turner, Tennessee; and Ryan Wendell, New England.
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