The Falcons finished the preseason defeated after losing the league’s last game on Sunday night to the Cleveland Browns 19-10. Atlanta looked much better in terms of the logistics, but there were still those “preseason blunders” — i.e., Kobe Jones fumbling the ball after an interception while carrying it like a loaf of bread. Still, there were plenty of takeaways from the matchup with Cleveland, some good and some bad. There are many position battles to discuss, but I wanted to begin with the offensive line because it is easily the most concerning position group, specifically the left guard position.
Josh Andrews trotted out with the first-team offense. Willie Beavers got the start at left tackle, but Jake Matthews went through walk-throughs before the game with the starters. The rest of the starters were Matt Hennessy, Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary, which should be no surprise. Examining his entire body of work, Andrews played perfectly acceptable. He didn’t do anything that surprised me; his run blocking was good, and his pass sets weren’t horrible. I have real concerns about Andrews holding up in the regular season without help from Matthews, Hennessy, or Arthur Smith’s play design/calling.
Coaching and scheming can help hide some of the deficiencies Andrews has in pass protection, but Jalen Mayfield might not be as easy to hide if he were starting. The third-round pick was firmly in the race for the starting left guard spot coming into Sunday night, but Monday morning is a different story.
Mayfield had a disappointing outing against the Browns. The play everyone will point out is the sack on Feleipe Franks, where he was bull-rushed into his quarterback’s lap, but it wasn’t just that. There were multiple instances where he was blown off the line of scrimmage. Mayfield is clearly not physically ready to handle the likes of Fletcher Cox, Jonathan Allen, and Ndamukong Suh. You can assume Andrews will be named the starter.
Drew Dalman, the other rookie offensive lineman, also struggled with getting blown off the ball in similar situations. He was consistently driven a couple of yards behind the line of scrimmage on run plays, which cements his place behind Hennessy on the depth chart. As a whole, the depth along the offensive front is concerning, and I still believe the staff will go with a nine-man group — Matthews, Andrews, Hennessy, Lindstrom, McGary, Beavers, Spriggs, Mayfield, and Dalman.
The starting offensive line should be serviceable if Arthur Smith and the offensive staff can gameplan around their deficiencies. Still, the depth is non-existent, so Matt Ryan would likely be running for his life if an injury were to occur along the front. Because of that, I wouldn’t be shocked if Terry Fontenot brought in an offensive lineman in off waivers.