Falcons hire Boudreau to coach offensive line

To fill the last major position on his staff, Atlanta Falcons first-year head coach Mike Smith on Thursday hired longtime league offensive line coach Paul Boudreau, who was recently fired by the St. Louis Rams.

Boudreau, 58, will be the team's third different offensive line coach in three years and will preside over what figures to be the continued revamping of the unit.

Until last season, Atlanta had used the zone-blocking scheme popularized by veteran line coach Alex Gibbs, a system that relies on smaller, quicker linemen. But in 2007, under Bobby Petrino, the Falcons moved to a more conventional design and began to bring in bigger, more physical linemen.

Smith and new offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey prefer a power-based running game, and so the emphasis on acquiring bigger blockers will probably be reiterated.

League sources said that Smith also considered veteran line coach John Matsko for the key job on his staff, but Boudreau was his first choice. The two men worked together on the Jacksonville Jaguars' staff from 2003-05. Boudreau formally interviewed for the job on Wednesday, and a contract agreement was quickly completed.

Boudreau is a 22-year league veteran, having worked previously with the New Orleans Saints (1987-93), Detroit Lions (1994-96), New England Patriots (1997-98), Miami Dolphins (1999-2000), Carolina Panthers (2001-02), Jacksonville (2003-05) and St. Louis (2006-07). His Rams unit in 2007 was beset by injuries.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.