Line Coach Hill Likes the Talent He Has to Work With

Line Coach Hill Likes the Talent He Has to Work With

Jay Adams

Published July 12, 2012 at 9:00 AM

AtlantaFalcons.com continues its Five Questions series with the Falcons assistant coaches today with new offensive line coach Pat Hill, who stresses the importance of fundamentals in his teachings as a way to improve what the Falcons already have at the front five positions and gives a timeline for when position battles may be decided.

Jay Adams: You’ve been here a few months. What’s your assessment of the talent you have been working with on the offensive line?

Pat Hill: I like the group I’m working with. I think they’re highly intelligent. My job, like I told them, isn’t to come in here and split the atom. These guys have a lot of plays and a lot of schemes and they understand them very well. My deal that I want to do is I just want to keep working on fundamentals. I’m a great believer in fundamentals. This is a league where everybody runs a lot of the same stuff. The ones that have the edge are the ones that execute it the best. It’s the same thing on the offensive like. We just want to keep working on our fundamentals, get better at our footwork, get better at the understanding of the fundamentals that it takes to win. The run game, the pass game, the screen game — whatever it may be, if we get better at fundamentals, it increases your confidence.

JA: The left tackle position is one that a lot of fans are going to be paying attention to. Do you see that as a position battle that will drag on throughout training camp?

PH: You can’t get anything out of playing in shorts and T-shirts now, and that’s the great thing about pro football. We get a training camp and four practice games. In college, you don’t get that. Here, there’s a lot of time to sort that out. There’s a lot of things that are going to happen between now and September 9 in Kansas City. It’s going to be very competitive. It’s going to be great competition. My belief is I want to get the best five on the field, wherever they may fit.

JA: The Draft was kind to you in that you get Peter Konz and Lamar Holmes with the first two picks the Falcons had in 2012. Obviously, you haven’t seen Lamar out on the field yet (as he recovers from a foot injury), but what are your impressions of Konz’s abilities?

PH: Peter Konz comes from a program that runs a pro-style-type offense, so he’s familiar with inside zone, outside zone, the power run game, so the run game is very familiar. Their pass protection, there’s some similarity. You know, the difference is, like I used to tell my guys at Fresno, too — we ran a pro-style offense and a lot of our kids were able to move on — we’re basic math in college. We don’t go into all the details that happen at the pro level. The pro level, it’s a lot more sophisticated — you have the basics and then it’s an add-on game. The great thing is, though, for Peter is he’s coming out of a program where he has the basics. Now we can add on a lot easier. The guys that come out of some of these programs that are spread and maybe one- or two-protections or maybe two- or three-runs, all shotgun — there’s a lot more involved in that teaching, so Peter comes from a very strong program as far as fundamentals and basics. He had a great line coach in college I know very well (Bob Bostad) , who’s now in Tampa Bay with Greg Schiano, so he’s got a real good head start. The hardest part is, you’ve got to change the chip. The words are now different. If we all had the universal chip where all the blocks were the same and the plays were the same, it’d be a lot easier game, but everybody’s got different names for things. Same thing with me. For example, 62, 63 protection was a lot different for me than 62, 63 is here. It takes me a while to snap into the new chips, so we’re all learning a new language, but he’s picking it up fast.

JA: The big buzz this offseason has been “Protect Matt Ryan.” What do you see as the things that need to occur between now and the first game against Kansas City in order to ensure that happens?

PH: Fundamental work. I term it as being a swing coach. Tiger Woods has got a swing coach, who works with him on the same swing every day, over and over. Pass protection is learning how to get into a groove and having belief in your fundamentals. There are going to be times when you get beat, but when you get beat, you can’t get away from your fundamentals. You’ve got to step back, clap it off and come back and fundamentally get strong again. That’s the hardest thing about protection, because in the heat of battle, you’re going to get beat once in a while. It’s not going to be perfect every time. How can you snap back and get ready for the next play and put that beside you? There’s some times when even the great golfers have a bad shot every once in a while. We’re gonna have some bad shots, and when we have a bad shot, how do we recover and get to the next one. That’s what I’m concerned about.

JA: You inherit a guy here who seems like he’d be a gem for a new coach at any position in Todd McClure, who has seen his share of turnover in his NFL career. How much do you lean on a guy like that when you, yourself, are learning as much as the players you’re teaching?

PH: He’s a true pro. That guy’s got a wealth of knowledge. I’ll admit: as a new guy coming in — in the NFL, the more familiar you are with the personnel, the better you are. I don’t have a familiarity with any of the defensive personnel. When I was (the offensive line coach) in Cleveland, after one year, I knew the personnel in the league. I forced myself and said, ‘When I’m here, I’ve got to learn the personnel.’ So, right now, when we’re getting ready for a game plan, the first question you’ve got to ask is: Can you handle this guy? What kind of guy is this? Heck, I’m fine with that, just as long as we get it done as a joint effort, and when you’ve got a guy like Todd McClure and Tyson Clabo and JB (Justin Blalock) and those guys that have been through the wars, anything they can contribute, you’d be a fool not to listen.

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