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Jovaughn Gwyn must step up after redshirt-type season in 2023 -- Rookie Review

The seventh-round NFL draft pick spent his rookie season mostly working behind the scenes.

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. – The Falcons rounded out their 2023 NFL Draft class with an offensive lineman they knew well.

South Carolina guard/center Jovaughn Gwyn was the pick at No. 225 overall, adding talent, depth and grit to the interior line.

This was a guy offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford recruited out of high school when he worked for N.C. State. This was a guy then-Falcons head coach Arthur Smith took note of working deep into the night when Smith was in town for a coaching clinic, a story well documented in Tori McElhaney’s feature story on Gwyn. This was a guy Falcons southeast regional scout Shepley Heard's contacts raved over.

"This guy is the toughest, nastiest, grittiest player. I love the way he plays," Heard told McElhaney back in April. "The way they talk about him (at South Carolina), it all checks out. You go out to practice and it's just down in, down out, period after period, you're watching this guy and he's not giving up. You can throw on any game and it's going to be the same thing. You what you're going to get with him.

"So, when we're saying, 'Hey, do we want to draft this kid?' I know what we're getting before you bring him in here."

This was a guy who was always seen as a project, an undersized player with tremendous work ethic the coaching staff would take time to develop.

That was the case during a 2023 season in which Gywn worked largely behind the scenes to improve his craft.

A look back

Gwyn essentially had a redshirt season in 2023. He played one special teams snap and none on the offensive side despite injuries at center and guard. The Falcons were so deep up front that they didn't need to call Gwyn in before he was ready.

He was active just once, a Dec. 10, 2023 contest against Tampa Bay, when starting center Drew Dalman was inactive due to injury. Ryan Neuzil played the entire game, so Gwyn wasn't called into offensive action.

What Gwyn learned in 2023: Improved play at center

Center is a complicated position, especially from a mental standpoint. Gwyn was mostly a guard at South Carolina, but the move to center was expected due to his relative lack of size at 6-foot-2 and 301 pounds.

So, learning how to make the right reads and blocking adjustments at the line of scrimmage was always going to take some time. It's important to be patient with the learning process, considering how consequential a miss can be at the NFL level.

Gwyn was able to learn behind Dalman and Neuzil, without the pressure of having to play right away. It was a project Gwyn was ready for, even back in rookie minicamp.

"I know that I'm going to make a mistake, and if I do, I'm going to show the coaches I'm going to learn from it," Gwyn said. "The goal here is to get a little bit better every single day."

Areas for improvement: Working his way up the depth chart

Gywn will continue to face competition for his place on the depth chart and the 53-man roster, especially with major transition throughout the coaching staff. He'll have to prove himself to a new staff, using his trademark work ethic to learn a new offensive system and battle through the tough times with roster spots at a premium and position battle upfront expected to be fierce even for reserve roles.

Improvement, from a mental and technical standpoint, must be continued for Gwyn to establish himself as a reliable option should game reps become available in 2024.

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