This is the fith installment of a series reviewing Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith’s first draft class in Atlanta, which included a total of nine players. We’ll go chronologically through these draft picks in the order they were selected; next up is the Falcons’ second fourth-round pick, who didn’t find much playing time during his rookie year.
If you’ve missed any other installments, be sure to check them out!
Drew Dalman came into last offseason set to compete with Matt Hennessy for the starting center job, but it quickly became clear that the rookie from Stanford would be in a reserve role his first year. However, there was a period when the Falcons were desperately trying to find some sort of boost on offense; that came in the form of a center rotation between Dalman and Hennessy. Against Jacksonville, the two centers would switch out every two drives. The Falcons ended up beating the Jaguars, which gave Arthur Smith more confidence in his decision about this rotation. The experiment continued the following week against the Buccaneers, but Atlanta lost that matchup, and Dalman returned exclusively to a backup role.
Dalman finished the Jacksonville game with a 71.2 PFF grade on 20 snaps, while Hennessy doubled his snap count and finished with a 66.3 overall grade. Despite the difference in snap count, Dalman finished with only one less drive than Hennessy. The Falcons’ offense had a 52.9% run success rate with Hennessy on five drives compared to a 55.6% success rate with Dalman on four drives. Arthur Smith appeared to call more runs with Dalman on the field, and more passes with Hennessy, but that could just be a coincidence. Smith did say afterwards that he thought the center rotation made them better. It’s possible the Falcons felt that Dalman gave them a better chance at success on the ground; as a former offensive lineman, Smith understands the nuances of what constitutes good run blocking.
Although the two games against the Bucs and Jags didn’t win Dalman the starting job, he’ll undoubtedly have a chance to compete in 2022. All he can do is improve physically and mentally in hopes of earning the starting gig. The coaching staff has been outspoken about his ability to play guard and center, so Dalman will also have a shot to unseat Jalen Mayfield as the team’s left guard.
Dalman played respectably in limited snaps, and he seems like the exact type of player this new regime wants, one who is focused on improvement and not content with mediocrity. The Falcons will benefit from this kind of mentality as Dalman pushes both Hennessy and Mayfield to perform well this spring.
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