The Falcons added more than a handful of impact players this offseason, mostly through free agency but some acquired via trade. The roster is the best it’s been since the new regime took over, but growth from within is critical too. The Falcons, like every other club, are unlikely to sustain success without internal development, and there are a ton of breakout candidates for them this year. This continues to my series of which players could establish themselves in 2023, moving on to Drew Dalman.
Check out any other parts of the series if you’ve missed them!
Falcons breakout candidates: Drew Dalman
Dalman was a fourth-rounder out of Stanford in 2021 and appeared in all 17 games during his rookie campaign but only sparingly on offense. However, he beat out incumbent starter Matt Hennessy last year as the sole starting center for the 2022 campaign.
It was a bag of mixed results. He thrived in certain facets while struggling in others. He showed an ability to command the offensive line — a necessary function of centers. Despite not allowing a single sack, his pass protection capabilities were noticeably inadequate. On the brighter side, he exhibited impressive agility in the run game, a crucial element in Arthur Smith’s zone offense. Still, he was called for nine penalties, struggled with snaps occasionally, and just needs to be more consistent in general.
The most vital trait for a center in this league is to physically and verbally anchor the offensive line. The best centers in football elevate the rest of their guys. An elite center can also benefit the quarterback, especially a young one like Desmond Ridder. Falcons offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford noticed a bond forming last year when the third-rounder took over for Marcus Mariota.
“It’s always a little bit different the way they communicate, but there has to be a great understanding between the two of them and that takes reps together,” Ledford said. “That takes working together and you see Des and Drew constantly talking. You see them at practice, always. They’re together a lot. You see them working out the things they need to work out.”
Arthur Smith obviously supported the kid, noting his progress and the stability he provided at the position. It might be coach speak, but the staff is clearly high on the Day 3 draft pick.
Dalman has a number of things to work on, but he’s got the opportunity to solidify himself along the offensive front. The center position is important around the NFL, especially in the Falcons offense. If Drew Dalman can elevate his game in his second season starting, the line and offense as a whole will reap the benefits.
Photographer: John Byrum/Icon Sportswire