Today’s Falcons practice is the first time we’ve seen Kaleb McGary since the end of the 2020 season. I came away from last season very impressed with McGary’s improvement throughout the year. Since being selected with the 31st pick in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft, he’s consistently improved. The former Washington Husky is a formidable run blocker but has struggled in his pass sets, which should bode well for him in Arthur Smith’s scheme.
I asked whether it was time to panic over the Falcons offensive line this past weekend — before McGary was activated off the PUP list. I still believe there are depth concerns at tackle, but with McGary returning to the active roster, the group looks much better. After the Falcons started Willie Beavers over Jalen Mayfield at right tackle this past Saturday, I was overly concerned with the group as a whole. Arthur Smith was quick to clarify that the position switch wasn’t an indictment on Mayfield’s performance; it was a reward for Beavers after he “beat everyone the coaches put in front of him.”
McGary will likely be the team’s starting right tackle, and Matt Hennessy seems to have established himself as the starting center, which leaves left guard as the only position up for grabs. Arthur Smith spoke on how impressed he is with Drew Dalman’s capabilities to play multiple positions, so the 2021 fourth-round pick is fully in the competition at left guard. Smith elected to give Josh Andrews the starter reps during the team’s scrimmage on Saturday, so you have to think Andrews has the best chance of winning the job.
Still, where does this leave Jalen Mayfield? Remember, back when the Falcons selected the former Michigan Wolverine in the third round of April’s draft, they clarified that he would follow a development plan to play guard, but could he provide depth as a tackle since Matt Gono is sure to miss some time this season with an apparent neck injury?
I believe Mayfield should kick back inside to continue developing as a guard instead of competing for a backup spot at tackle. Willie Beavers has clearly impressed the coaching staff enough to earn starter reps, so it makes sense to have him there to compete for a backup role while Mayfield battles Andrews and Dalman for the starting left guard position. Andrews is abysmal in pass sets but can move some bodies in the run game. Still, if Mayfield is even marginally worse than Andrews, I would elect to go with the rookie and give him as many reps as possible because his ceiling is much higher than Andrews’. I’ll be curious to see how Arthur Smith distributes the snaps going forward. Will Mayfield stay at tackle or move back inside to guard?
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