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Falcons OL coach Hill high on Schraeder

Ryan Schraeder was an afterthought for the Atlanta Falcons, and not just because he went undrafted.

Offensive line coach Pat Hill actually stumbled across the Valdosta (Ga.) State left tackle well before Schraeder signed a free-agent contract, April 29.

"I got to see him earlier in the year because I was watching another guy from there who got drafted by Carolina, the [Ghanaian-born] kid here from Atlanta," Hill said, referring to Panthers rookie guard Edmund Kugbila. "I was looking at him and kept noticing the left tackle, Schraeder. And I didn't say anything about it at the time just because we weren't really in the market for an offensive tackle."

The Falcons can't stop talking about Schraeder now.

The 25-year-old rookie saw his most extensive action of the season last week against the Bills, playing 27 of 88 offensive snaps (31 percent) while spelling Jeremy Trueblood at right tackle and lining up at tight end in the jumbo package.

"And the 13 plays at tackle that he played, I thought he played really well," Hill said of Schraeder. "He got to play against [Mario] Williams and he got to play against some good players. I think his progression is coming along really well.

"I really believe that he'll do a good job with playing time this week, when he's called upon. And Coach [Mike] Smith is going to call on him. So I'm excited about it. So is he."

Suddenly, Schraeder's facing giant-sized expectations.

"It feels good but, at the same time, a lot of work has to be done," Schraeder said. "You just have to keep progressing and keep doing what you can when you get out there. You have to make plays when you can, do your job, and don't let your guy make the play."

Schraeder's story has been well-documented. He stood only 5-foot-7 following his junior year of high school in Kansas and didn't play football. He then grew to 6-7 before attending Kansas State for one year as a student. While there, Schraeder was urged to try football and ended up playing at Butler Community College in his home state. He earned junior-college All-American honors before transferring to Valdosta State and becoming a two-time Division II All-American and national champ.

Hill credited the Falcons' scouting department for bringing Schraeder to Atlanta. He credited the 300-pound Schraeder for putting in the work to become a potential factor on offensive line in dire need of a facelift.

"He can play both left and right tackle, he's played our jumbo 'Y', and he might end up a guard here," Hill said. "He's very versatile, position-wise. The thing about him is he has functional strength. He's a big man.

"I think he has a mean streak in him. He's got a little bit of piss and vinegar in him. And that's good. He's not afraid to mix it up."

Maybe Schraeder will get a chance to do so as the starting right tackle before season's end. The Falcons have to dissect whether he's capable of contributing for years to come.

"Schraeder's going to get a good look this week," Hill said of the matchup with Green Bay. "I don't think he's going to start this week, but he's going to play. He's going to play early. We have four games left to look at him. And I think he's ready for the fire."