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Joyce’s Atlanta Falcons Roster Predictions: Offensive Line

Photo: Thomson200- https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en

The Atlanta Falcons, along with the rest of the NFL, will have to finalize their 53-Man rosters by Saturday September 5 at 4 p.m. ET. This means that many of the players fighting for a roster spot will be sent home or signed to the practice squad after clearing waivers. In this series, I will do a breakdown of each of the Falcons positions and what they may look like entering the September 5 deadline.

For more content:

Predictions for final cuts: QB [2] | RB [5] | WR [6] | TE [3] | OL [9] | DL [9] | LB [5] | DB [6] | S [4] | SPT [3]

Above you find all the final roster projections for the upcoming final cut to be made on September 5. Here let’s take a look at the Offensive Line:

The remake of Atlanta’s offensive line started back in 2017. After a terrible year of offensive line play in 2018, which caused quarterback Matt Ryan to get sacked 42 times, Thomas Dimitroff signed Jamon Brown and James Carpenter in the offseason and then drafted both Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft in hopes of turning it around. Well in 2019, Matt Ryan was sacked 48 times. However, all that doesn’t show that the offensive line, especially on the right side with the two rookies, actually started coming together.

The Rebuilt Line:

Yes, even despite the major issue, once the season went along the line gelled well together. Well that is every position outside of the left guard. The line all centers around former pro bowler Alex Mack at center. Dimitroff has made several good signings in his time in Atlanta, but Mack is one of the best if not the best signing, he has made. When Mack came over from Cleveland, the Falcons desperately needed a starting center. Since then Mack has solidified that position commanding the line and leading it to the Super Bowl in his first season. Mack is in the final year of his contract and the Falcons did draft a center out of Temple, more on him later, but that should not prevent Mack from being the full-time starter in 2020.

The left tackle position has been a mainstay since 2014 after the Falcons selected Jake Matthews with the sixth overall pick out of Texas A&M University. Matthews has maned Matt Ryan’s blind side for 95 games, and it doesn’t appear to be stopping soon. After only giving up eight sacks last season, good for sixth among offensive lineman, it’s safe to say Matt Ryan won’t have to worry about his blind side for quite some time.

The Right Guard and Right Tackle position are maned by the two sophomore lineman Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary. Coming into the 2019 NFL Draft, Lindstrom was widely viewed as the best interior lineman in the draft. Though offensive lineman is never the sexy pick in a draft, but Atlanta badly needed help. And Lindstrom didn’t disappoint. After winning the starting job in the offseason, Lindstrom had some bad luck in the form of a broken foot in the season opener but was able to return in week 14. In five starts, Lindstrom looked like he really belonged in the league. He only committed one penalty and continued off his senior season at Boston College by not allowing a sack in any game he played. Beside him was a more surprising pick to say the least. When the Falcons traded back up to the 31st pick in the 2019 draft, many thought it would be for a pass rusher. Instead Dimitroff and Quinn took the right tackle out of Washington, Kaleb McGary. The one word Quinn used to describe McGary was “physicality.” McGary had to overcome a minor invasive heart procedure, which left him sitting out the beginning of the year, and when he got in, he had the usual rookie struggles. However, as time went on McGary really started to find his footing and Falcons’ fans really started to get a picture of what the right side of the offensive line could look like in the future.

Left Guard:

Did you notice there was one position left out of the starting line? That’s because the left guard position is still a major position of need for Atlanta. However, Atlanta seemed to have fixed that problem. In the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Atlanta selected Matt Hennessy, center out of Temple. Hennessy was brought in to be the heir apparent to Alex Mack, but that doesn’t mean he can’t learn on the job. Plus, he has the ability to slide over and play just fine. Other than Hennessy, the Falcons have options like James Carpenter and Matt Gono. Competition never hurts and if Atlanta can find a solid option at left guard, then the offense should explode. The line has to be better this year at opening holes for new running back Todd Gurley and protect franchise quarterback Matt Ryan. This is why the left guard position is one of the most important battles in camp.

History:

These are the number of offensive lineman Atlanta has kept in the past few seasons:

  • 2017: nine offensive linemen
  • 2018: nine offensive linemen
  • 2019: nine offensive linemen

Guarantees:

These are the players I believe are virtual locks to make the roster:

  • Jake Matthews
  • Alex Mack
  • Chris Lindstrom
  • Kaleb McGary
  • Matt Hennessy
  • Matt Gono
  • James Carpenter

Fighting for a Spot:

These are the players seemingly fighting for the last couple spots:

  • Ka’John Armstrong
  • Justin Gooseberry
  • Sean Harlow
  • Evin Ksiezarczyk
  • Justin McCray
  • John Wetzel

Final Projection:

I still believe Atlanta will keep nine offensive linemen. There is a lot of versatility among this group of linemen, but with the injuries that took place last year they might want to keep an extra guy around to fill in. The question I have is I don’t believe the final two offensive linemen will be there all season. This is a position I believe the Falcons might play around with during the season. That being said here is the guys I expect them to keep:

  • Jake Matthews
  • Alex Mack
  • Chris Lindstrom
  • Kaleb McGary
  • Matt Hennessy
  • Matt Gono
  • James Carpenter
  • Justin McCray
  • John Wetzl
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