Mora: Offensive Line getting better

Mora: Offensive Line getting better

FLOWERY BRANCH - Opponents combined for just one sack of Michael Vick and Matt Schaub in the last three games, but Atlanta head coach Jim Mora says the credit is due to more than an improved offensive line.

Yes, the line enjoys some cohesion now that new left guard Matt Lehr has played five games with the other four starters. Center Todd McClure has held his job since Week 9 of 2000. Right guard Kynan Forney earned his first starting role as a rookie entering the season opener at San Francisco in 2001.

Todd Weiner signed as an unrestricted free agent the following year to start at right tackle. Kevin Shaffer has held the left tackle job since Bob Whitfield suffered a season-ending leg injury midway through 2003.

As Mora likes to say, however, blaming the line for sacks entirely is shortsighted. Quarterbacks often hold the ball too long after a play breaks down. Receivers sometimes take too long to separate from coverage, in turn causing them to begin routes late or to run them too shallow.

Fullbacks and running backs don't always execute proper blitz pickups.

"It's not just the offensive line," Mora said Thursday. "It's the whole package. I think that shows how we've improved on offense. We really have. We're becoming efficient. We're still not even close to where we can get."

Vick ranked last in the league among full-time starters last year with a sack every 7.98 passing attempts. That's an alarming rate that was 0.84 points worse through a Week 2 loss at Seattle. The two-time Pro Bowl selection entered a game at Buffalo the following week with a strained hamstring that forced to rely more on his teammates and to distribute the ball from the pocket as often as possible.

In beating the Bills 24-16, Vick avoided a sack for the first time in 16 games. The Atlanta rushing attack remains the NFL's best for the second straight year, but production has soared. Warrick Dunn, T.J. Duckett and Vick lead a ground game that averaged 158 yards through five games last season, but 190.6 today.

Total offense is up nearly 40 yards to 342.6, while turnovers have dropped from nine to four. Receivers average more catches, and the result is nearly 10 more yards passing per game.

"It confirms things are happening the way you want them to happen," Mora said. "Most people would gauge an offensive line by rushing yards and sacks and so if that's how you want to gauge them, then they're much improved over what was good last year."

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