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Falcons training camp preview: Interior offensive line

With just over two weeks to go until the start of the Falcons’ 2021 training camp, it’s time to take…

By admint10m , in Legs , at July 22, 2021

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With just over two weeks to go until the start of the Falcons’ 2021 training camp, it’s time to take a closer look at each of the position groups on the roster. We’ll go through each one, noting the potential starters and the competition for depth roles. We continue our look at Atlanta’s offense with the interior offensive line—where Chris Lindstrom at right guard is the only returning starter, and there are open competitions at both center and left guard.

OFFENSE: QB | RB | TE | WR | OT | C/G

RIGHT GUARD: Chris Lindstrom

Chris Lindstrom

6’4, 310 | 2020 Stats: 1122 snaps played, 1 penalty, 4 sacks allowed, 77.1 overall PFF grade

After missing the majority of his rookie season, the Falcons’ top draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft had a big year in 2020. Lindstrom was a stalwart on the offensive line, narrowly beating out Jake Matthews for the highest PFF grade on the unit. He made strides throughout the season, making a name for himself as a versatile, athletic guard who can pass protect and run block at a high level. Atlanta’s only returning starter on the interior, Lindstrom will be relied upon once again to provide consistency and quality play at right guard.

CENTER: Drew Dalman, Matt Hennessy, Willie Wright

Drew Dalman

6’3, 300 | 2020 Stats (College): 6 games played, 6 games started | 437 snaps played, 0 sacks allowed, 86.9 overall PFF grade

With the departure of Alex Mack, the Falcons not only lost their long-time starting center, but took a hit to their depth as well. The selection of Stanford center Drew Dalman in the fourth round made a lot of sense for the team, as Dalman is talented enough to compete for the starting job but also provides reliable depth. Dalman lacks ideal size, but he’s an elite athlete at the position and was better than expected as a run blocker. He’ll need to add a little weight to survive at the NFL level, which could give Matt Hennessy the leg up in the competition, but he’s a quality prospect who should be able to step in if needed.

Matt Hennessy

6’4, 307 | 2020 Stats: 225 snaps played, 4 penalties, 1 sack allowed, 47.0 overall PFF grade

Atlanta’s third-round pick from 2020, Matt Hennessy rarely saw the field due to the presence of Alex Mack and the bounce-back season from James Carpenter at left guard. When called into action late in the season, Hennessy struggled at guard but largely held his own at center against some very tough competition. Hennessy has more pro-ready size and is a more proven pass protector than Dalman, which when combined with his NFL experience makes him the slight favorite in the competition.

Willie Wright

6’3, 300 | 2020 Stats: N/A

It’s unclear where many of these players will line up due to the Falcons’ decision to list most of their offensive linemen as “OL” on the roster, so I’ll have to guess. Willie Wright has more of a center build than the other options, so we’ll put him here as the third center heading into camp. A former UDFA, Wright signed with the Browns after the 2019 NFL Draft and spent his rookie season on the practice squad. He joined Atlanta’s practice squad in 2020 and signed a futures contract with the team heading into 2021. Wright was a college OT and former DT, but his build fits best on the interior. He’s a good athlete with better length than his height suggests, so perhaps he’s got a chance to stick as a reserve option.

LEFT GUARD: Josh Andrews, Jalen Mayfield, Sam Jones

Josh Andrews

6’2, 311 | 2020 Stats: 311 snaps played, 1 penalty, 2 sacks allowed, 41.2 overall PFF grade

The apparent favorite to start at left guard heading into the season, veteran Josh Andrews has been a bit of a journeyman throughout his NFL career. After going undrafted in 2014, he spent time with the Eagles, Vikings, and Colts where he primarily played on special teams and as a reserve. In 2020 with the Jets, Andrews was forced into action late in the season, making 4 starts for New York. As his PFF grade suggests, he did not play well—although perhaps you could blame the general malaise surrounding the Jets for some of that.

Andrews lacks ideal size, but tested out as a very good athlete all the way back in 2014. He’s never managed to make a name for himself as anything more than a below-average backup, but the Falcons were quick to add him after the start of free agency. I’m hoping for the best for Andrews, but I’ll be very concerned—based on his previous body of work—if he’s the Week 1 starter in Atlanta.

Jalen Mayfield

6’5, 326 | 2020 Stats (College): 2 games played, 2 starts | 128 snaps played, 1 sack allowed, 76.1 overall PFF grade

The Falcons’ third-round draft selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, Jalen Mayfield spent his entire college career at tackle. He had a very good season in 2019 before an injury after two games cut his 2020 short. Mayfield was a dominant run blocker in college and showed some intriguing traits as a pass protector, but he’s expected to eventually transition to guard in Atlanta. He’s a below average athlete at tackle, but an above-average one at guard—and his lack of ideal length won’t hurt him as much on the interior.

The injury to Matt Gono, particularly if it’s going to cause him to miss significant time, could force the team to move Mayfield to swing tackle early in the season. We’ll see where Mayfield winds up playing in camp, but he’s easily the most talented option the Falcons have at left guard—even if there might be some growing pains early on.

Sam Jones

6’5, 305 | 2020 Stats: N/A

A sixth-round pick of the Broncos in 2018, Sam Jones briefly spent time with the Cardinals and Colts before the Falcons claimed him off waivers following the 2021 NFL Draft. At 6’5, 305, Jones has fairly good size and extensive experience in a zone blocking scheme from his college days at Arizona State. However, he’s fairly average as an athlete and has struggled to catch on with a team thus far. He’ll have a shot to compete in camp, but his path to the 53-man roster is likely as a reserve interior option.

THE PRACTICE SQUAD COMPETITION: Bryce Hargrove, Ryan Neuzil, Joe Sculthorpe

Bryce Hargrove

6’4, 310 | 2020 Stats (College): 11 games played, 11 games started

One of the Falcons’ three UDFA additions at guard, Bryce Hargrove has only been playing football since his junior year of high school. He was able to get on the field for Pitt in his sophomore year due to injuries ahead of him, and never relinquished the left guard spot. Hargrove has good size for the interior and is a solid pass protector, but struggles to handle bigger, more powerful opponents. He’s also a below-average athlete, which makes his fit in a zone blocking scheme somewhat dicey.

Ryan Neuzil

6’2, 301 | 2020 Stats (College): 12 games played, 12 games started

Another UDFA who spent his college career at left guard, Ryan Neuzil is almost the polar opposite of Bryce Hargrove. While Hargrove had a late start to his football career, Neuzil started 44 straight games at Appalachian State—and also played TE and punter in high school. Neuzil is also a tremendous athlete, but his size is a big concern at just 6’2, 300. Neuzil is a much better fit in a zone blocking scheme, and was dominant at his level of competition, but his lack of ideal size could hurt him a lot more at the NFL level.

Joe Sculthorpe

6’2, 295 | 2020 Stats (College): 11 games played, 11 games started

The third and final UDFA addition on the interior, Joe Sculthorpe probably has the most difficult path to the roster. He’s very undersized for the NFL at just 6’2 and under 300 pounds with 31 inch arms, and was just a two-year starter for NC State. However, Sculthorpe does offer versatility: he has played both guard spots and center during his college career. He’s also an above-average athlete, which could help his fit in Atlanta’s rushing attack. It’ll be a difficult path for Sculthorpe—as it is for any sub-300 pound offensive line prospect—but if he can add weight and show something in camp, he’s got a shot to make the practice squad.

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