The Falcons offensive line has been the talk of the town all offseason long. Even before the draft, there were concerns regarding the interior part of the group. Was Matt Hennessy ready to take over for Alex Mack? Who would start at left guard? Terry Fontenot came out of the draft with Jalen Mayfield, a college tackle that projected better as a guard, and Drew Dalman, a natural center and was expected to come in and battle Hennessy for the starting center position. Fontenot also tendered Matt Gono, who was expected to compete with Mayfield at left guard.
Fast forward a couple of months, and the group’s outlook is much different. Gono still has an undisclosed injury, but it seems to be neck-related as he showed up to training camp in a brace. Talkin’ Birdy’s Matt Karoly has sources that believe it is a herniated disc, but until Arthur Smith has to disclose the injury, we won’t know for sure how long he will be out. Kaleb McGary had mysteriously been absent throughout OTAs, and though his timeline seems to be shorter than Gono’s per Smith, we still don’t know what kind of timetable we are looking at.
Without two of the team’s top three tackles, Fontenot acted by signing a journeyman swing tackle in Jason Spriggs. Smith has also shifted Mayfield from left guard to tackle, which he has been complimented in doing. Hennessey seems to have locked down the starting center position, which is a positive, but there are still massive concerns at left guard and right tackle.
Dalman has now shifted over to left guard to provide some competition for Josh Andrews, while Mayfield has taken almost all over the first-team reps at right tackle. Well, yesterday at the practice in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, it was Willie Beavers who ran with the first team at right tackle while Mayfield ran with the second team. Arthur Smith quickly noted after practice that it wasn’t an indictment on Mayfield’s performances. They were rewarding Beavers, who had apparently been beating everyone the coaches put in front of him.
The Falcons trotted out a Jake Matthews–Josh Andrews–Matt Hennessy–Chris Lindstrom–Willie Beavers starting five to open up the scrimmage yesterday, and for me, that is a concerning group. Hopefully, McGary won’t miss too much more time and assume his role as the right tackle. At that point, Mayfield can continue his development at guard. There is reason to be nervous about this unit because of the pivotal role they play in the offense’s success as a whole. It’s still early, but it may be time to panic.