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Competition Heating Up at Right Guard

The Falcons continued to practice on Tuesday in preparation for their preseason game on Thursday against the Dolphins in Orlando. Here are pictures from the day.

As the Falcons worked their way through training camp and the first half of their exhibition slate, the well-documented battle at right guard only grew more intense.

According to head coach Dan Quinn, longtime pro Chris Chester and rookie Wes Schweitzer are both making strong cases for the job. And with only two games left before the regular season opener, this competition will be one to watch through the remainder of the preseason.

"Well, we know it's alive, that's for sure, in terms of Wes and Chris (competing)," Quinn said Tuesday. "Both guys have really risen up to the challenge, so to speak."

Chester, 33, is entering his 11th NFL campaign. A member of Kyle Shanahan's offense in Washington from 2011-13, the former Oklahoma Sooner was a natural fit in Atlanta last year. The key for him is to remain healthy: Chester injured his shoulder down the stretch in 2015 that required him to have offseason surgery and, during his recovery, had to sit out OTAs.

Schweitzer, 22, may be new to the professional ranks, but he has been mitigating his youth with his knowledge of the scheme. Keith Carter, Atlanta's assistant offense line coach, was Schweitzer's OL coach at San Jose State in 2014. There, the Spartans ran an offense that was similar in many ways to Shanahan's, and the sixth-round pick learned how to execute in an outside-zone blocking scheme.

Couple that experience with a high IQ – Schweitzer majored in biochemistry and hopes to one day earn a Ph.D. – and it's easy to see why he's developing quickly.

"It definitely helped me adjust (to the speed of the game)," Schweitzer said about his relationship with Carter.

"I can be a guy that plays left guard, right guard, center, back up a lot of people, learn a lot of different schemes, come in and pick up the playbook. That's what (the coaches) said my strengths were."

Against Cleveland, Schweitzer led all Falcons with 68 snaps, per NFL Game Stats and Information, which put him on the field for 73 percent of all offensive plays. That was a significant jump from Week 1 of the preseason when he was on the field for 41 total snaps (33 on offense).

Chester only played 16 snaps in each of the first two preseason matchups, but like most veterans, he doesn't require much tuning up to prepare for Week 1.

Those numbers may be skewed, but in practice, each has received his fair share of opportunities with the first-team offense. And although Chester and Schweitzer are far apart in age, Miami's defensive line – which includes four-time Pro Bowler Ndamukong Suh – can present a tough challenge to both guards on Thursday.

"We've almost split them equally in reps," Quinn said. "Certainly in the first half (of preseason games include) the matchups we're looking forward to, and that will be the case again this week. We're pleased with both guys right now."

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