After one preseason game, I have never been less confident than I am right now about the left guard position since the offseason began. At first, I assumed Matt Gono and Jalen Mayfield would battle it out — leaning towards Gono because of experience. Then, his injury came to light. My focus then shifted towards Mayfield and Josh Andrews, but I still believed in the rookie’s development set forth by the coaching staff. They seemed confident in their ability to get him ready to go at guard before the opener against the Eagles.
Injuries continued to plague the offensive line, which forced Mayfield to his collegiate position at tackle, halting his development at guard. As a result, Andrews was given first-team reps and was considered the front runner for the starting left guard position. Coming out of college, Mayfield may have been a sixth- or seventh-round tackle. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Arthur Smith moved him back to guard, noting that if he were “close at tackle,” that is where he would be.
Andrews is exactly who we thought he was — a journeyman who is somewhat reliable in the run game but a total liability in pass protection. Mayfield showed similar struggles at tackle in the first preseason game. Now that the battle is between these two… it might officially be declared a crisis. The Falcons cannot trot out either of these guys because neither shows even a slight bit of competence protecting the quarterback. Mayfield was reportedly taking a lap during joint practices with the Dolphins, and he couldn’t even finish it, needing help from a teammate to encourage him to keep going…
I get that he is a large man, and I’ll never know what it is like to carry around that weight, but he is still developing mentally and physically — he’s just a kid. He came out of Michigan as more refined pass blocker than he is performing, so I expect him to rise to the occassion. I’m far from ready to just write him off (as should everyone); in fact, I believe he will develop into a mauler of a guard, but he’s just not quite there yet, it seems.
Andrews is nothing more than the eighth or ninth linemen on any decent roster. He is in line to start in Atlanta. I hope Mayfield impresses during the Miami preseason game because he is certainly our best option to this point. Drew Dalman has been taking reps at center and guard because of this dilemma, but he only took snaps at center during the Titans game, so I wouldn’t be so bullish on him winning the job.
It might be time to start making calls about a trade.