FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- One of the Falcons' premier position battles of the offseason is officially over.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn announced Tuesday that Brandon Fusco would be the team's starting right guard entering the season after he beat out incumbent starter Wes Schweitzer for the role this preseason.
"Fusco has certainly done a good job to earn that spot," Quinn said. "And what a competitive battle between him and Wes. That's why you may see Wes some more at center as we're moving forward. As an interior-three player, Wes has the ability to play center, right guard, left guard, so he'll be an important part of what we do. I love his competitive style, he consistently grades among the highest on the team in our CT scores, in terms of competitive toughness."
The Falcons signed Fusco as a free agent this offseason after he spent a year in San Francisco under former Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Fusco has started 80 games during his seven year NFL career, and he was the Falcons' starting right guard in the team's second and third preseason games.
"I'm excited," Fusco said of earning the starting role. "It's been a long journey, it's not easy coming from a new team to another but these guys really made it easy for me. We've got a good group of guys, especially offensive linemen. They're veterans, we've got some young guys, but they're all a good group of guys that work. They showed me the way, and it's been easy for me. I'm excited to get this thing going for real and to have a good season."
Schweitzer, a sixth-round draft pick in 2016, started all 16 games for the Falcons last season. He now figures to be a primary backup for the interior offensive line, and he saw action at center in the third preseason game.
"It was very close between Brandon and Wes," Quinn said. "Wes, as I said, has significantly improved from last season. I think when we got into the last few preseason games really what we saw from a protection standpoint from Brandon kind of played out from what we saw from him last year. So that was really part of the deciding factor."
Fusco is a new face on a Falcons' offensive line that has had strong continuity over the past few seasons. In 2016, the Falcons were the only team to have all five starting linemen play every single game, and four of those five players remain starters heading into the 2018 season.
Although the Falcons signed Fusco as a free agent this offseason, he was not given the starting job by any means. Quinn and his staff preach the importance of competition to improve the overall talent of their team, and the battle between Fusco and Schweitzer was just one recent example of that.
"It's definitely different than any other place I think would handle it, but that's the way they do things around here," Fusco said of having to earn the starting job. "It's always a competition, and you're not going to get anything handed to you. I respect that a lot. Wes is a great player, and I've talked to him and told him, 'Don't put your head down.' He's going to be a great player in this league, he's going to play for a very long time, I have a lot of respect for him."
For the second straight season Atlanta will have a new player at right guard, but Fusco has had time to build some chemistry with his new teammates. Of course, it also helps that Fusco is familiar with the Falcons' scheme, having run a similar one in San Francisco, and as a veteran he know what it takes to prepare for an NFL season.
"Coming from the same scheme from San Francisco just a lot of the terminology is different," Fusco said. "Alex [Mack] and Andy [Levitre] really helped me along the way. I've been around this game for a while so the knowledge of the game is there, I just had to get the mental part down with the terminology and that really was the biggest thing for me. The offense is not really new, it's the same. I like the style of play they have, it's the way I'm molded so I think it was an easy transition."