Falcons Breakout Candidates: Matt Hennessy

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Matt Hennessey didn’t get much experience his rookie year, but during the 2020 draft, he was a very wanted man. The Falcons drafted Hennessy with the 78th overall pick, but if they hadn’t, he would’ve been taken by the Broncos a pick later. The New York Daily News reported that the Jets, who owned the 79th pick, had agreed to trade the pick to the Broncos. Denver elected to take Lloyd Cushenberry 83rd overall, who started 16 games as a rookie but had an up and down year. Hennessy was highly coveted coming out of college, partly due to his insane athleticism — posting an elite RAS score.

His first season, though, wasn’t very eventful. Cushenberry struggled throughout the year, but the former LSU Tiger got better as the season progressed. Hennessy didn’t have the luxury of starting all 16 games at center and gaining experience; instead, he was asked to fill in for James Carpenter at left guard. He struggled there, but the sample size was also minuscule.

Eventually, he was benched, but after Alex Mack suffered a concussion late in the season, Hennessy was once again thrusted into the starting lineup, this time at his natural position — center. It shouldn’t be taken lightly when I said he was absolutely ungodly at both positions. It seemed like a high schooler was in pass sets against Aaron Donald.

There is a bright side, though, the production Mack provided in his last year in Atlanta was about average, so the bar isn’t as high as it might have been a couple of years ago. Hennessy also fits the Arthur Smith zone rushing scheme perfectly, given his football IQ and athleticism in space, and his confidence seems to be growing a bit in his second season as well.

Communication is key for a center, as they’re tasked with coordinating calls and adjustments to the rest of the line and quarterback. Hennessey has shown obvious growth from his rookie season, and with a new slate under a first-year regime, he could start over fourth-round pick Drew Dalman. Falcons offensive coach Dwayne Ledford mentioned a few positives on his second-year center, which should spark more optimism in Atlanta. Terry Fontenot added Dalman because he was likely the best player or offensive lineman on his board, and the Falcons had no backup at the position. Hennessy will likely get first-team reps to start, but it’s an open competition, and the former Temple Owl could be in line to experience a breakout year in a more effective offense.

 

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