Pro Football Focus graded last year's Falcons line as a bottom-10 run-blocking machine and the third-worst pass-protecting outfit in all of football.
Atlanta was pushed around at the line of scrimmage from wire to wire, but the early returns on this year's overhauled group have assistant Mike Tice encouraged.
"I'd lose a lot of sleep if we were getting our ass kicked in pass protection, but we're not," Tice said, per ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure. "We're not going to be a run-first team, so we'll get the runs cleaned up. We've just got to keep protecting that quarterback."
Losing veteran bookend Sam Baker to a season-ending knee injury didn't help, but Atlanta held opponents to just two Matt Ryan sacks over 79 pass attempts in August. That came after Falcons blockers allowed Ryan to suffer a career-high 44 takedowns last season.
Atlanta's linemen set an ugly precedent last September when they did little to aid Ryan after he was walloped by Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro on a slide in the regular-season opener. Set to face New Orleans on Sunday, Tice already likes what he sees from first-round pick Jake Matthews at left tackle and free-agent addition Jon Asamoah at right guard.
Both are physical movers with a mean streak, giving the Falcons a better chance to hold off a Saints pass-rushing group led by Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette. Atlanta's run-blocking has been a work in progress all summer, but Tice is confident he'll see improvement after New Orleans dialed up eight sacks and 16 hits on Ryan in two meetings last season.
"The one thing they won't be, they won't be punked over by anybody," Tice said of his line. "That's encouraging."