The Falcons offensive line is in flux as the team winds down OTAs in preparation for next week's minicamp and eventually late July's training camp. Out are two veteran starters and stepping up to the replace them will be young players, most competing for their first legit shot in the NFL.
Center is a position that quarterback Matt Ryan is close to because of the snap exchange and the need to think similarly about line adjustments and audibles during games.
Peter Konz and Joe Hawley are squared off in this year's center battle, a spot opened up after long-time center Todd McClure retired earlier this offseason.
On Tuesday Ryan said the second-year center has done a great job making the switch from guard, where he played last year, to center, his college position. McClure's shoes are big ones to fill, but the young player has impressed his QB.
"We got a lot of work together last year, maybe not so much in terms of game time, but on the practice field a lot of work together," Ryan said. "He's a mature guy for a young player. He takes it really seriously, he's a hard work and extremely smart. Those are all qualities you really want from your center. He's done a great job."
The offensive line is a sum-of-the-parts position and you're only going to be as good as your entire unit. It's a position that needs to be played collectively and Ryan said the new guys along with mainstays Sam Baker and Justin Blalock are doing well, working hard and coming together. While a position battle wages on at center and right tackle, all the offensive linemen know the best man will win and that best man needs to be the best fit for the other starting four along the line.
Konz steps in for McClure, a 13-year veteran of the Falcons, former team captain and starting center for Ryan since the quarterback entered the league in 2008. Leadership at the center position is a must for an offensive line and though he's young, Konz is holding his own, according to Ryan.
"I think Peter Konz has done a great job," Ryan said. "For a young guy, I think he's a really mature guy. He works very hard and is very detailed in his work. He's stepped right into that role. As a center it just kind of comes naturally playing that position."