Falcons head coach Mike Smith has not been quiet about his desire to create competition on the offensive line. At a position group that requires strong relationships in order to play together, Smith and his coaching staff have been rotating linemen heavily, searching for the right mix of starters and backups to make up the line rotation.
Smith appears to have targeted the number seven as the quantity of players he's searching for on the line. It's unclear if he means seven players for the active game day roster or seven total. Last season they entered the season with nine offensive linemen, though center Todd McClure was injured at the time while he remained on the active roster. They used seven active linemen in Week 1 against Chicago.
On Saturday, Smith said the rotations at practice is enabling them to see all of the variety of combinations they have available to them.
"We are rolling the guys (on the line at practice)," Smith said. "They are not going out on first team or second team. We are going to roll them in and out so we can look at the different combinations. Then come up with the best combination for the seven offensive linemen. That is important, not just the first five, the backups have to be cross trained. We have to have a second snapper and an emergency snapper. We've got to have tackles that can play guards, and guards that can play center."
Smith said on Sunday that guard Garrett Reynolds is the No. 1 at right guard right now, but he expects a push from Peter Konz and Andrew Jackson. Sam Baker at left tackle is facing competition from Will Svitek and rookie Lamar Holmes will eventually increase the competition as he continues to rebound from an offseason injury. Center is heating up as well with Joe Hawley pushing Todd McClure for time.
Starters Justin Blalock (left guard) and Tyson Clabo (right tackle) appear solidified in their starting roles. Mike Johnson has improved his versatility since entering the league and is getting time at both tackle and guard, hoping to make himself a versatile option for coaches.