Injury to Mike Johnson Puts Atlanta Falcons in Unenviable Position

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Third-year offensive lineman Mike Johnson, who was challenging Lester Holmes for the starting right tackle position in Atlanta, has a broken fibula and dislocated ankle. Outside of the fact that I nearly spewed my meal all over this keyboard (OUCH), this injury puts the Falcons in a bad position along their offensive line.

The seriousness of this injury indicates that Johnson will be out for at least a few months, if not the entirety of the 2013 regular season.

Atlanta released right tackle Tyson Clabo early in the offseason and is relying on the enigma that is Sam Baker to protect Matt Ryan‘s blindside. This injury only poses more questions about the Falcons ability to protect their newly extended franchise quarterback.

With Johnson out of the mix, second-year player Lamar Holmes is the odds-on favorite to earn the starting right tackle job. Holmes played in a total of one game along the offensive line as a rookie last season.

This means that Ryan’s two outside protectors as of right now are questions marks. Baker had a solid 2012 campaign, but was a below-average starting tackle in his first four NFL seasons. We need to see some more consistency and a larger sample size from the former second-round pick in order to mark the left tackle position as stabilized.

Though Ryan isn’t the most mobile quarterback, he does a solid job stepping away from pressure and buying time in the pocket. If Atlanta’s starting offensive line in Week 1 is similar to what we see right now, Ryan will have to work magic in the offensive backfield.

Of course, Atlanta could go out there and sign one of a handful of veteran free-agent offensive line options.

Pro Football Talk points out Winston Justice, Sean Locklear and Jared Gaither as possibilities.

Of those three, Justice seems to make the most sense. The 28-year-old former second-round pick has started 42 games at right tackle over the past four seasons and played pretty well in that role with the Indianapolis Colts last year.

Outside of that, Atlanta would likely be better off rolling the dice with the youngsters that it has on the roster right now who represent more upside than Locklear or the injury-plagued Gaither.

 

Vincent Frank is an NFL featured columnist at Bleacher Report.

Vincent is the head sports editor at eDraft, co-host of eDraft Sports Radio (which airs every Monday and Wednesday from 3-6 p.m. ET) and a fantasy writer for Pro Football Focus. He’s also the news director here at PFC and co-host of Football Debate Central with Ryan Riddle8:00-9:30 every Wednesday.