Have the Falcons seen the last of Jalen Mayfield?

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The Falcons selected Jalen Mayfield in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft out of Michigan, where he played tackle. However, the plan for him was to kick inside to play guard in Atlanta.

Initially, the plan seemed to be to let Mayfield acclimate to his new position and the league by sitting his rookie season, which isn’t unusual for this regime — i.e., Richie Grant, Troy Andersen, Desmond Ridder, etc. However, plans went awry when injuries forced Mayfield into the starting lineup.

And to say he struggled mightily is an understatement. There were some outlets and metrics that had the Falcons third-rounder rated as the very worst offensive lineman in football. You expect some growing pains when asking a player to switch positions, but the difficulties Mayfield experienced were beyond that.

2022 was an opportunity for him to bounce back; it never came to fruition, though. Mayfield was placed on the Injured Reserve at the beginning of September due to a back injury. However, the writing was already on the wall when the Falcons brought in Elijah Wilkinson. The veteran was expected to start over Mayfield, and it only took one training camp practice for the second-year pro to relinquish the starting job.

About a month ago, in the middle of November, Mayfield came back from the IR, activating his 21-day window to return to the active roster. Most of the time, players make it back in that time frame, but the window has officially closed, and Mayfield will now miss the rest of the 2022 season.

It’s safe to assume what the future holds for Mayfield because even his league-average replacement, Wilkinson, looked exponentially better. Moreover, injuries have decimated the left guard position, and those who have been called upon — Matt Hennessy, Chuma Edoga, and Colby Gossett — have performed admirably in their respective stints.

I seriously doubt the Falcons cut ties with Mayfield this offseason, so fans should expect him back in the fold next season. It seems he’s far from becoming a starter in this league again; I wouldn’t be shocked if the Falcons chose to run it back with an extremely similar-looking group as the Week 1 starting five.

Photographer: David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire

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