Leap of Faith in Konz Not Far

Leap of Faith in Konz Not Far

Jay Adams

Published November 9, 2012 at 10:35 AM


In Konz, They Trust

Trust might be the most important thing between offensive linemen in the NFL. It’s more important than that extra rep on the bench press or that 20 extra minutes of film study.

Gelling as a line is all about trust, and perhaps it’s one of the hardest things to attain. It’s the reason why offensive lines with new members struggle at times. Trust just hasn’t been established yet.

For one reason or another, the Falcons seem to be the exception to the rule. Despite a rookie lining up at right guard, trust runs very deep along the front five, and it’s because in his short time with the team, Peter Konz has earned that trust with the things he does on the field and off it.

Fellow linemen Todd McClure and Tyson Clabo don’t pull punches. They’re brutally honest. One a 14-year vet, the other a Pro Bowl right tackle, they know good when they see it.

So when each goes beyond lip service to rave about the newest addition to the offensive line, it’s enough to take notice.

“He’s done a great job. He’s really come in and played well. He knows the system,” McClure said. “He’s a smart guy so there’s not a whole lot we have to do. It makes it easier when you’ve got a young guy that can come in and he doesn’t have to have a pacifier in his mouth the whole time. He can just go out there and play, and he’s done a great job.”

The right guard position has been in flux since the end of the 2010 season when the Falcons lost Harvey Dahl to free agency. Since then, there have been some growing pains at the position. Garrett Reynolds was named the starter last season only to lose the job midway through the year. Joe Hawley took over the slot and even left tackle Sam Baker was put into the role for a few plays after he had returned from a back injury.

During the offseason, the Falcons had a dream land right in their lap as Konz — slated to be a first-rounder out of Wisconsin — fell to the Falcons in the second round. Pulling the trigger on a player that could play both center and guard was a no-brainer. It was all about the future as the team knew he wouldn’t have to be thrust into a starting spot right away and could take a couple of seasons to gell with his teammates and the system before then.

As Reynolds won back the position and played it very well during the first six games of the season, a back injury kept him out of the Philadelphia and Dallas games, and this week, landed him on season-ending injured reserve.

In his stead, Konz took over, much sooner than the Falcons had anticipated. His first game was against Cullen Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles — a huge challenge for any linemen, let alone a rookie making his first start.

For the man who would be to Konz’s right, however, there was a sense of comfortability in his presence.

“You know what? It hasn’t changed what I do one bit. Peter has done an excellent job so far,” Clabo said. “On the road in Philadelphia against Cullen Jenkins is a test, and I thought he passed the test. I anticipate that he will continue to do well because that’s about as tough as it’s gonna get.”

Clabo went on to mention the trust that he has in Konz already — an unusual prospect for a relationship between a veteran tackle and a rookie guard. Clabo feels completely at ease with Konz to his left.

That trust comes from knowing what Konz has done week in and week out to prepare himself and seeing exactly how he approaches the work he has to do off the field. Clabo knows that sometimes, it’s his job to let a defensive linemen cross his face, because the right guard is supposed to be there.

With hesitancy in that task comes a huge risk of not performing your own job as a blitzing linebacker can easily cross to Clabo’s outside and get to the quarterback if he doesn’t play his assignment. Having Konz to his left, Clabo knows that he’s going to be there when that needs to happen.

He also knows he’ll be there even when it doesn’t need to happen. Clabo was blocking a defensive linemen during a recent game when he noticed Konz had come over to give Clabo help he wasn’t expecting.

After the play, Clabo looked at Konz and said, “What were you doing?”

“I didn’t have anything else to do,” Konz replied, matter-of-factly.

While Clabo and McClure spend time raving about the rookie, Konz himself spends a lot of time being extra hard on himself. After an Eagles game when he all but blanked Jenkins, Konz thought he could have done a lot better. In fact, in the two games he’s played, he’s not only kept himself from getting negative attention, he’s made big blocks, like the one to spring Michael Turner, getting the running game going against Dallas, in the second half of last Sunday’s win.

Even with those glaring facts and performances, Konz still goes into the film room looking to answer the question: “What can I do better?”

“It lets you know what you have to work on. It makes you hungry for the next game,” Konz said. “I think that’s one of the biggest things to winning is keeping an edge, because if you feel like you’ve done something or that you’ve made it or you’re comfortable, that’s when losses happen. That’s when you start losing your way. So when I’m hard on myself, not only is it to make myself better, but it’s to give me an edge to play on Sunday.”

The rookie is about to be indoctrinated into a hated rivalry this weekend as the first chapter of his Falcons-Saints story begins Sunday.

It’ll be loud. It’ll be rowdy. It’ll be hostile. Certainly enough to rattle even the most tested veteran.

Still, the expectation of Konz is that he’ll be just fine.

“I know it’s going to be loud in New Orleans, and so that’ll be a test for him,” Clabo said. “But I think that he’ll be able to handle it.”

Trust.

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