The Falcons’ offensive line could feature as many as three new starters in the 2022 season. The unit last year was abysmal — surrendering 40 sacks as well as being among the league’s worst in rush yards before contact. They were terrible in both facets, pass protection and run blocking. Hence the influx of competition at left guard, center, and right tackle. Thus far through training camp, the most healthy rotation has come at center between Drew Dalman and Matt Hennessy. This battle will likely go down to the final preseason game, but the player who takes “command” as a leader is the one who’ll be the starter, according to Arthur Smith.
“Obviously, the physical stuff, you need to see inside. A lot of it is command,” Smith said. “The really great centers, I mean (we) put Todd McClure in the ring of honor, and from everything I’ve heard about Todd McClure, and Matt (Ryan) will tell you this, when he was a young player, having that veteran center hand a guy who had command, that helps.”
Hennessy started every game for the Falcons last season, but he and Dalman went through a two-week stretch where they would rotate every two offensive series. Obviously, it didn’t work out, but the staff remains unsatisfied with Hennessy’s production. And it’s about more than just his below-average blocking.
“They run the show out there,” said Smith. “Right down the middle of your offense, your center and your quarterback, when they got command, you got a good shot.”
Those things are great, but the center position is vital to any zone running scheme. They have to be athletic enough to reach defenders in the run game while having a strong enough anchor to hold up in pass protection. Arthur Smith wants command out of the center competition, but he knows the first requirement of the job.
“Obviously, minimum job requirement, be able to block your guy. But we want to see that presence as well.”