Falcons former first-round pick could be surprise of 2022 season

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After not having his fifth-year option exercised, Falcons former first-round pick Kaleb McGary has looked like a different player this offseason. Arthur Smith, who doesn’t throw around compliments too often, had this to say about the fourth-year right tackle.

“I’m proud of Kaleb.”

“He has come a long way.”

“He’s playing some pretty good football right now.”

The Falcons could have as many as three new starters along the offensive line, who were some of the worst pass protectors in the league. Jalen Mayfield was the very worst in pass sets, Matt Hennessy was the sixth-worst, and McGary rounds out the group as the ninth-worst lineman in pass protection. But it seems only Hennessy and Mayfield have to worry about losing their starting jobs.

Elijah Wilkinson has all but wrapped up the left guard position battle, taking every single rep with the first team offense outside of the very first day of practice, including both preseason games. Hennessy is still liberally rotating with Drew Dalman in a battle that could last up until the Falcons Week 1 matchup against the Saints. However, McGary hasn’t been challenged by Germain Ifedi, and it’s because he’s having an incredible camp.

“I know this is only my second camp with him, but it’s the best camp I know I’ve seen from him,” Dwayne Ledford said. “I know other people have said that as well.”

The Falcons need McGary to finally take the next step in his development. Albeit against bad Lions and Jets teams, the offensive line has looked miles better than it did last season. And solidifying the right side of the line has been crucial in that. McGary is playing in a contract year, so that could be where the extra motivation is coming from, but it doesn’t matter. All that matters is the Falcons’ former first-round pick is finally playing to his draft status. Hopefully, it carries over into the regular season.

Photographer: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire
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