Falcons: Moving Jalen Mayfield back to guard is the right move

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After a short (and ultimately failed) experiment at tackle, it seems Jalen Mayfield has kicked backed inside to compete with Josh Andrews and, presumably still, Drew Dalman for the open left guard spot. The rookie third-round pick was taking snaps at left guard with the second-team offense during Monday’s practice, and it was undoubtedly the right move by the coaching staff.

After playing mostly right tackle in college at Michigan, Mayfield’s projection as a tackle may have resulted in him falling to the later rounds. He projected much better as an interior lineman athletically, and was subsequently drafted to develop into a guard. In Atlanta’s first preseason game against the Titans, the coaching staff decided to continue with Mayfield at tackle and Andrews at left guard — and both underperformed. Arthur Smith even said the staff isn’t confident in Mayfield taking over at right tackle.

Not only was it obvious he wasn’t going to be an NFL tackle, but it was also an asinine decision to halt Mayfield’s development at left guard to “see” if he could potentially compete with Kaleb McGary at right tackle. The coaching staff clearly realizes the failed experiment and moved him back inside, which is the right move. Now, the next decision will be who to start next to Jake Matthews at guard.

Andrews, Mayfield, and Dalman are expected to compete for the left guard position. Terry Fontenot bringing in a veteran guard to start would be an ideal situation, but if it is an in-house competition, it should be Mayfield. He’s as effective in the run game as Andrews and arguably better suited for this zone blocking scheme. Mayfield may be as much of a liability in pass sets as Andrews, but I would rather see the former Michigan Wolverine struggle as he acclimates to NFL pass rushers as a guard than have someone like Andrews — who is what he is, at this point in his career — continue to struggle as he has his entire professional career.

Its quite possible the Falcons staff were forced into the Mayfield at tackle experiment due to the injuries to Kaleb McGary, Matt Gono, and Jason Spriggs. There wasn’t much time lost at guard, but Mayfield will need every rep to be ready for the opening game against the Eagles. This is the first step towards that.

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