For most of the football world, the most unsettling individual performance of the Falcons offensive line was Jalen Mayfield. He looked uncomfortable the entire game as Philadelphia’s interior defensive line manhandled the rookie; after all, he notoriously has one of (if not) the lowest Pro Football Focus pass-blocking grades ever — 1.4! Matt Hennessy was almost as unreliable as Mayfield, but the lineman I am most concerned about is Kaleb McGary.
He had his lunch money taken all day long by a rotation of Eagles edge defenders, finishing with a 44.6 pass-blocking grade and committing one penalty. On the first play of the Falcons’ third offensive possession, McGary was called for a holding. Thankfully the offense was able to overcome the setback but punted after moving the chains.
The reason why McGary’s lackluster performance is more concerning than Hennessy or Mayfield is that he is approaching the point in his career where most tackles either make-it-or-break-it. McGary entered the league disastrously and had a largely disappointing rookie year, but he dramatically improved his second season in Atlanta — the number of sacks he was responsible for dropped from a league-high 13 to 4, and he only committed one penalty in 2020.
Since being drafted in the first round a couple of years ago, he has come a long way as he was easily a bottom-five tackle in the NFL as a rookie. McGary showed improvement in technique in his second season, but he still finished last year in the bottom third of right tackles. This season I had expectations that he would again steadily improve, becoming an average-caliber starting tackle.
His first performance of 2021 suggests anything other than that. This is an important year for McGary to take the next step with his technique, but it is almost reaching a point where improvement cannot be expected. Even though he had a forgettable performance, it isn’t quite time to give up on McGary because most tackles reach their full potential in their third and fourth years in the league. I will say, though, that if he strings together a few more of these abysmal outings, it might be time to hit the panic button.