Legends aim to build offensive fortress in trenches

By Jaylon Thompson / The Alliance

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 09: Matt Simms #4 of Atlanta Legends huddles with his team against the Orlando Apollos during the third quarter on February 09, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/AAF)

ATLANTA — Atlanta Legends offensive line coach Pete Metzelaars doesn’t mind a little trench warfare during games.

In fact, he enjoys watching a good battle unfold.

“There is a whole battle between the offensive and defensive line of who will lift the other guy up,” Metzelaars said Tuesday. “It comes down to who will break down the power angles. We want to get underneath him and pry him out of the way.”

The Atlanta Legends face the Arizona Hotshots on this Sunday, March 3, at 8 p.m. ET (6 p.m. local) at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. The game can be seen on the NFL Network. Tickets to all Legends games are available here.

Each day at practice, Metzelaars reminds his unit of this message. He can be heard giving tips on how to create better leverage. One of his favorite phrases is “load up and forklift that guy.”

“The goal is to make the opponent not have any strength,” Metzelaars said. “Once you do that, you gain all the power.”

To that end, the Legends offensive line has steadily improved through the early part of the season. The unit has developed better technique and is building more confidence in pass protection.

And now, the group is flourishing.

In three games, the offensive line has paved the way for multiple drives of more than 15 plays. Against the Birmingham Iron, the offensive line gave up three sacks, but also gave quarterback Matt Simms time in the pocket — and he delivered by throwing for 328 yards.

“Things have gotten better each week,” Metzelaars said. “That’s our challenge. We want to know how much better we are in Week 10 than we were in Week 1.”

Two areas of particular improvement are footwork and pad level. The group has worked hard to build discipline in understanding schemes. This has impacted its efficiency on the field.

“The offensive line has better technique and pad level,” Metzelaars said. “We are improving with better footwork and understanding of the plays we are running.”

With the Arizona Hotshots on deck, the offensive line plans to be ready for a strong defense.

Unfortunately, the Legends will have to play without top tackle John Kling IV. He injured his left ankle in the loss to the Iron and will miss this weekend.

Metzelaars plans to have guys compete for the starting role this week in practice. Reserve linemen will be expected to step up in Kling’s absence.

“It’s a big role to fill as John has done a great job for us all year,” Metzelaars said. “He has been consistent by showing up and playing well.”

Metzelaars has confidence the unit can keep it going. He knows the team will continue to rally together and continue to strive for success.

“It was good to see as guys rallied around each other,” Metzelaars said.

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Jaylon Thompson covers the Atlanta Legends for The Alliance of American Football. Follow him on Twitter @JaylonThompson.

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