FLOWERY BRACH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff wants to make something clear to the fans: The team is not brushing off a 2-7 start as no big deal.
In an interview with the 790 the Zone, the team's flagship radio station, Dimitroff addressed the Falcons' struggles and the mindset moving forward.
"We believe that this organization is in a very positive state," Dimitroff said. "Again, I want to encourage everyone to understand that no one's taking this lightly. Believe me. I know that there's been some talk … the suggestion is that we think it's OK. … This is not OK for us. This is a very serious situation here, and everyone understands that. And our players aren't taking it lightly."
Head coach Mike Smith said the Falcons won't just give up on the season and start playing young players over the final seven games. At the same time, Smith said there would be competition in practice this week with the best players taking the field this Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Dimitroff also addressed his concerns with the offensive line, particularly in terms of its inability to open holes in the running game. The Falcons used Wednesday's padded practice to work on being more physical at the line of scrimmage. Offensive line coach Pat Hill previously told ESPN.com that some of the problems in run blocking can be attributed to having just one padded practice per week.
"Fundamentally, we need to drop our pad level," Dimitroff said of the line. "We've done an improving job, and I think they're improving from the standpoint of pass protection and continuing to slide and pick up different things and making different calls. However, on the run side of things, we all know we have to get to a spot where we're not passing the ball and having to rely on passing the ball, and that we can run the ball in those tough situations."
The Falcons still rank dead last in the league in rushing at 64.3 yards per game. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said part of the key toward improving is feeding his "workhorse'' Steven Jackson more often. But it's hard for Jackson to get going without solid blocking in front of him.