The Atlanta Falcons have been very clear about taking steps to improve the play of their entire team this season, including its offensive line. In addition to having a strong defensive line, Falcons head coach Mike Smith re-emphasized the mission to keep Falcons QB
“The message has been real clear, from the very beginning,” Smith said. “We want to get bigger and stronger in the lines. I think that we have accomplished that. We have accomplished that in a number of ways. First, with the returning players, they have gotten bigger and stronger in the weight room; we have added through free agency and our first two draft picks.”
Among the guys up-front this season, both
“They’re expecting a lot out of me,” Hawley said. “They gave me an opportunity last year, halfway through the season and I think they liked what they saw. They brought me back for another opportunity and I’m just really trying to grow as a leader, work on my communication and my rapport with Matt (Ryan). I think it’s going to be good, having a whole training camp with the ones and working with those guys and I think brining in new guys on the offensive line, I think we’re really solidifying that group and I think we’re going to be a huge asset this year to the team.”
Despite enjoying a close-knit OL group, Hawley is well aware that each lineman is competing for a starting spot, including the center position.
“That’s the NFL for you,” Hawley said. “You can never really get comfortable; they’re always bringing in a guy to take your spot and it really is necessary for a team, a good team, to bring in young talent and always have competition, because then people don’t get complacent; you always have to work hard.”
Most likely, his closest competition at the center spot is Konz, whose tireless work impresses and motivates Hawley.
“Having competition helps my game,” Hawley said. “I see Peter behind me, working his butt off and I can tell, so that makes me work harder each and every day.”
As for Konz, he's taking the competition for the starting spot just as serious as Hawley, beginning with his offseason work that he believes strengthens his run for the starting role.
"I worked hard in the offseason," Konz said. "Being disciplined with my nutrition, studying the playbook, all with expectations of getting better every day and establishing myself as one of the elite players on this team and I have to prove that."
Ultimately, the third-year center from Wisconsin wants the team to win with whoever is starting at each position, but he's made it very clear that he's going to do everything he can to be the Week 1 starter against the New Orleans Saints.
"With all that I've done, if I can push someone to be better and if they beat me outright, that's fine," Konz said. "I am a team player; I can do everything else for this team, but I'm focusing right now on that starting spot and winning that spot over."
Falcons fans should be smiling ear-to-ear, knowing they have a very competitive duo working for the right to be snapping the ball to Ryan, ensuring better protection for the star QB, meaning plenty of remarkable plays to come.