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Falcons lose strength on line

POSTED: October 15, 2007 5:04 a.m.
FLOWERY BRANCH — The Atlanta Falcons’ attempts to recover from a 1-4 start took a big hit Wednesday when right tackle Todd Weiner had knee surgery that will keep him out for at least two weeks.

The Falcons will have two new starting offensive tackles Monday night against the New York Giants, including undrafted rookie Renardo Foster.

The loss of Weiner comes one day after the Falcons confirmed left tackle Wayne Gandy will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.

Atlanta will start two rookies and a second-year player on its offensive line against a Giants defense that recorded 12 sacks against Philadelphia two weeks ago and seven sacks against the Falcons last season.

The Falcons’ new starting tackles will be Foster and second-year player Tyson Clabo, who also entered the league as an undrafted free agent. The team already is starting rookie Justin Blalock at left guard.

The patchwork line faces difficult matchups against Giants ends Osi Umenyiora, who set a team record with six sacks against the Eagles, and Michael Strahan, New York’s all-time sacks leader.

"I know Clabo has been itching for a chance to get back on the field," said Falcons center Todd McClure. "I told him to be careful what you ask for because now he’s getting it and it’s against those guys."

The Giants sacked Michael Vick seven times — including two by Umenyiora — in a 27-14 win at Atlanta last season. Umenyiora also forced a fumble.

Vick was suspended indefinitely in August following his guilty plea on dogfighting charges.

The Falcons are left with a less mobile quarterback — Joey Harrington — and a less experienced offensive line against the Giants’ pass rush.

Foster will line up against Umenyiora.

"It is a pretty good concern," said Falcons coach Bobby Petrino. "We watch him on tape, and he is a great pass rusher and obviously has all kinds of production, so we certainly have to make sure we try to take care of Renardo and help him as much as we can."

Petrino said Weiner is expected to miss two to six weeks following his arthroscopic procedure. No details of the surgery were released.

"We’re hoping he’s back in the earlier time slot," Petrino said. "We’ll see."

Even with Weiner and Gandy, the Falcons gave up 13 sacks in their first two games. The line gave up two sacks a 20-13 loss to Tennessee last week.

Foster, who played for Petrino at Louisville, will be making his first start.

"The main thing is going into the week knowing that I have to start, it takes a whole lot more focus than I have been giving," Foster said.

"We lost some real good veterans. The main thing for us younger guys and the other linemen is to pick up where they left off."

Gandy, 36, tore the anterior cruciate ligament on Atlanta’s next-to-last offensive play against Tennessee. Gandy was in his 14th NFL season and second with the Falcons.

Foster replaced Gandy on the Falcons’ last play and also filled in when Weiner, 32, left the game with his knee injury. Weiner had an MRI on Monday.

Weiner, an 11-year veteran, is in his sixth season with the Falcons.



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