One of the primary position battles for the Atlanta Falcons throughout training camp took place at left guard, and it appears that competition will continue into the regular season.
Veteran James Carpenter was listed as the starter on the team's first official depth chart, while rookie Matt Hennessy was listed as his primary backup. Speaking with the media Wednesday, however, Falcons coach Dan Quinn explained that they will get both players time on the field early in the year.
"I think as we're moving in for the first part of the season we'll see both guys getting reps there at the spot," Quinn said. "So, that's really where it's at."
For the better part of camp, it was Hennessy who was working with the starting unit. That may have been an attempt to see how Hennessy gelled with the Falcons' starters on the offensive line and how he performed against first-team defensive linemen. It could also be an indication that Atlanta does, in fact, view Hennessy as a starting-caliber lineman moving forward.
Prior to their Week 1 game against the Minnesota Vikings last season, the Falcons listed Jamon Brown and Carpenter as co-starters at left guard, while Matt Gono and Kaleb McGary were named co-starters at right tackle. Things played out differently in the game itself, though.
Both Brown and Gono were among Atlanta's inactives for the game and did not even suit up. Carpenter played 100 percent of the snaps at left guard, and McGary started against the Vikings and played 58 percent of the offensive snaps while rotating with Ty Sambrailo.
There's an obvious difference between this year and last, however. The absence of preseason games means that players across the league have not yet participated in live action against another team. Atlanta held a number of scrimmages in training camp meant to simulate game speed, but Quinn explained that he expects to rotate players at some select spots to help them get acclimated to Sunday action and further clarify roles.
"You'll see some people at certain positions doing that until we get into the normal flow, and I think that could be even longer than one week," Quinn said. "That could be two or three weeks to get into that flow. Fortunately for us heading in that we're able to do that at some spots, and we certainly plan to."
Perhaps the Falcons choosing to rotate between Carpenter and Hennessy is a way to get the rookie better suited for game-day action, but it's a rotation that will be watched closely as Atlanta seeks to have more consistent play on the offensive line in 2020.