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Falcons finally find long-term fit at left guard in Matthew Bergeron -- Rookie Review

The Falcons' second-round draft pick in 2023 played a team-high 1,129 offensive snaps at left guard, a position that has been a revolving door for years. 

Editor's note: The "Rookie Review" is a series of stories analyzing members from the Falcons' 2023 NFL Draft class. We take a look back at their 2023 production, as well as forward to what 2024 could hold for each individual.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- We can call it like we see it when it comes to the recent history of the left guard position in Atlanta. In 2022 alone, the Falcons played four different players at left guard. Prior to 2022, the left guard position was a revolving door from year to year.

The offensive line did see consistency with long-time staples like Alex Mack at center for five seasons, Chris Lindstrom at right guard since being drafted in 2019 and -- of course -- left tackle Jake Matthews, who broke the Falcons record for most consecutive starts in a career. However, while there has been year-over-year consistency in key spots across the offensive line, left guard was not one of them.

That is, until the Falcons drafted Matthew Bergeron in 2023.

With this one decision, it would seem Atlanta has entered a new era of -- the Falcons hope -- consistent play at the left guard position.

Based off Bergeron's growth and production in 2023, Atlanta is in as good a spot as it has been in regard to this singular starting spot. So, let's break down Bergeron's rookie year.


A look back

After ranking as the No. 1 Canadian prospect entering the 2023 NFL Draft, the Falcons moved up in the second round to draft Bergeron, sending their Nos. 44 and 110 overall picks to the Colts for the No. 38 overall pick.

Bergeron took hold of the starting left guard spot from the beginning of training camp and never let it go. He displayed a steadiness the Falcons haven't seen at the position in years. In fact, as Scott Bair pointed out in his End of Seasons Awards article, Bergeron ended up playing a team-high 1,129 offensive snaps.

"He is about as good of a rookie in the NFL as you can possibly find," Lindstrom said of Bergeron. "He's been a phenomenal addition to our room. His approach, the style in which he plays, how quickly he's learning. ... He's doing phenomenal."

According to Pro Football Focus, Lindstrom ranked as the best guard in the league. Bergeron came in at No. 38 overall. He was the fourth-best ranked guard in the 2023 rookie class.

What Bergeron learned in 2023: How to be a left guard

The most significant note about Bergeron's first year in the league is that prior to said first year, he had never taken a single live-game rep at left guard. Bergeron was a four-year starting tackle at Syracuse. Never once did he take a snap beside the center in college. In fact, the first time Bergeron even took a practice rep at the guard position was at the Senior Bowl last January.

So, everything Bergeron learned about being a professional guard, he learned on the fly and in game-time scenarios. Talk about a trial by fire.

This was also something the Falcons tried with former college-tackle-turned-pro-guard Jalen Mayfield. It didn't work out for Mayfield as the Falcons parted ways with him last year after drafting him in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The pressure was on to make sure that didn't happen for Bergeron, and it didn't. The Falcons found success with Syracuse product.

Bergeron was only penalized four times through 17 games, while six sacks and 33 pressures were attributed to him, per PFF. For someone who had the snap count Bergeron did while actively learning a new position against some of the league's best interior defensive linemen, that stat line is not too shabby for a rookie lineman and is indicative of more positive play to come for Bergeron as his career continues.

"I got used to playing guard; everything happens faster so I got better on (on the timing of) my hands and feet," Bergeron said towards the end of the 2023 season. "It's been a constant growth."

Areas for improvement: Consistency from pass blocking to run blocking

Take as much of this section with a grain of salt, as majority of these stats are pulled from PFF. However, these grades do help paint a more complete picture of where Bergeron could improve by way of consistency in blocking.

Both Carolina games and the Minnesota loss saw Bergeron record three of his highest pass blocking grades on the season. In those same games, though, he had some of his lowest run blocking grades.

Against Arizona, Chicago and Green Bay, Bergeron's run blocking grades were solid, but his pass blocking grades were on the low side, never topping a 50.1 grade.

If PFF grades are to be trusted, getting Bergeron's grades in these two areas in lockstep could go a long way in his future production. An example of how consistency can improve can actually be seen in Lindstrom's PFF grades, where 10 games saw his run and pass block grades come within 10 points of each other. That goes a long way in Lindstrom's consistency and could be the next step for Bergeron.

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