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Falcons shuffling on the offensive line

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Atlanta Falcons finished last in the league in rushing last season, averaging 77.9 yards per game.

“We have to run the ball better than we did last year,” offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. “Atlanta, since coach (Mike) Smith has been here, has always been a good running team except for last year. There were a lot of reasons for that. We don’t need to go into that now. That’s in the past. We are going to be a better running football team, starting with the offensive line and progressing throughout the team.”

—In OTAs, the Falcons are lining up with four different players along the front line from unit that played most of last season.

Left guard Justin Blalock is the lone mainstay.

Left tackle Sam Baker is back from knee surgery. Center Joe Hawley is at center instead of Peter Konz. Jon Asamoah is at right guard instead of Garrett Reynolds, who was released and rookie Jake Matthews is at right tackle instead of Jeremy Trueblood, who was not re-signed.

“They looked good,” Koetter said. “It’s a good blend of experience in Jon (Asamoah), who knows what’s ahead and knows what to expect from the program and then Jake is just such an advanced guy for somebody coming out of college. Obviously, with his pedigree, it’s a good mix.

“They are off to a good start together, learning the playbook together. I think those two and the improvements across our (offensive) line are going to be very helpful. Joe (Hawley) is a great communicator. We’ve got some good battles on the offensive line. I’m excited to see how it shakes out. We’ll end up keeping eight or nine guys.”