The Falcons haven’t even played their first preseason game, but the offensive line clearly already features a new starter. Atlanta notoriously had one of the worst offensive lines in football last year. Despite that, the front office did little to improve the unit, adding just a couple of bargain bin free agents and a sixth-round draft pick. The team has been rotating early and often at the position, and Elijah Wilkinson is emerging as the favorite at left guard.
After surrendering 40 sacks last year, the Falcons need a change. Justin Shaffer was selected in the sixth round to seemingly compete at left guard, while Germain Ifedi was brought in for the same reason at right tackle. Matt Hennessy‘s spot at center is also up for grabs as second-year man Drew Dalman rotates with Hennessy as the starter.
There’s competition along a majority of the offensive line, three of whom were some of the worst pass protectors in the league. Mayfield was the very worst in pass sets, Hennessy was the sixth-worst, and McGary rounded out the group as the ninth-worst lineman in pass protection. That’s three starters in the bottom ten when it comes to protecting the quarterback. That’s a problem for the Falcons.
McGary has been a mainstay on the right side, while Hennessy and Dalman are experiencing true competition, rotating nearly every day as the starter thus far in Falcons training camp. However, Mayfield began as the Day 1 starter, but it’s been Wilkinson every day since. And it’s probably because of plays like this:
#Falcons G Jalen Mayfield vs DT Derrick Taneglo pic.twitter.com/IYNs7B38Oa
— Kevin Knight (@FalcoholicKevin) August 2, 2022
For the sixth consecutive practice, Wilkinson ran with the starters. The Falcons’ head coach Arthur Smith mentioned that it wasn’t an indictment of Mayfield but rather an indication of how high the staff is on Wilkinson. Honestly, it seems the Falcons are recognizing their misstep and acting on it. Mayfield hasn’t proven capable of playing guard at the professional level.
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