The Falcons, as an organization, have invested a considerable amount of draft capital in their offensive line. Four of the five starters were drafted in premium rounds in the last three seasons, but Hennessy and Mayfield still have to be given more time to develop. Chris Lindstrom will be an above-average guard in this league for a very long time; however, the same cannot be said for Kaleb McGary.
McGary graded as poorly as one could in the season opener against the Eagles, finishing with a 44.6 pass-blocking grade and committing one penalty. Those underperformances continued against the Buccaneers and Giants; however, he did seem serviceable against the Jets and Saints, though he received considerable help from tight ends, running backs, and Lindstrom against New Orleans. He looked abysmal in back-to-back weeks against the Cowboys and Patriots — notching a 33 grade from PFF against Dallas. McGary ranks 69th out of 80 qualifying tackles in the league.
He’s been up and down this year, as he has his entire career. McGary had a disappointing rookie campaign but did improve drastically in his second season in Atlanta — the number of sacks he was responsible for dropped from a league-high 13 to 4, and he only committed one penalty in 2020. But in his third season, McGary seemingly hasn’t developed his pass sets nearly enough. Two obvious plays stick out in particular.
Against Dallas, Micah Parsons whipped McGary as a pass rusher and run defender. Parsons used a dead-leg pass rush to beat him for a strip-sack. Then the following week, Matthew Judon beat him like a stepchild in primetime on Thursday Night Football. Things just haven’t progressed since Atlanta traded back into the first round of the 2019 NFL draft. The Falcons will have to closely monitor McGary because his future should be in doubt. Terry Fontenot will have the decision to make about picking up McGary’s fifth-year option this offseason.
As of right now, things look grim for him, even if you’re being optimistic. He hasn’t been as bad as Jalen Mayfield, but time is running out on his development. Some guys do take longer to develop fully than others; most tackles reach their full potential in their third and fourth years in the league. There are plenty of examples of late bloomers turning into more than reliable starters; however, McGary will have to put together an impressive second-half performance.
Atlanta will have a decision to make this offseason about right tackle, which could include bringing Matt Gono back or drafting a blue-chip prospect to compete with McGary for the starting job. Well, some around the team believe the staff should go to others on the roster. On Friday following Thursday’s loss, Jarvis Davis had some choice words for McGary on 92.9 The Game:
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