Much of the conversation this offseason around the Falcons involves the lines on both sides of the ball. The offensive line is transitioning to a younger, bigger unit and the defensive line is going to lean on some young pass rushers in addition to the offseason free-agent signing of Osi Umenyiora.
Earlier this week, Falcons head coach Mike Smith appeared on Atlanta's *Archer & Bell *on 790 The Zone to discuss the coming competition along the front lines on both sides of the ball.
While it's been discussed heavily and assumed, Smith came out and said what most were thinking about the center position. Second-year lineman Peter Konz will have an opportunity to earn the job at center from the beginning and Garrett Reynolds returns to man the right guard position that he started six games at last season before a season-ending injury.
"Peter Konz will move into the center position," Smith said. "Garrett Reynolds, who was our starting right guard last year, will start the offseason as our starting right guard. And then Mike Johnson and Lamar Holmes will compete at right tackle."
With at least two positions that will feature heavy competition on the line, Smith said it reminds him of the competition on the O-line in his first season with Atlanta in 2008. He also thinks the physical size of all the players in the mix is significant.
"This will be the biggest line, physically, that we've had on the offensive side," Smith said.
This is the year that young players will be asked and expected to step up and play valuable snaps and the same will be asked on the defensive line. Smith said defensive tackle Corey Peters will be fully healthy this year unlike last year and the addition of Umenyiora along with mainstay Jonathan Babineaux will give the Falcons leadership up front.
One of the key young players in the rotation is 2011 seventh-round pick Cliff Matthews. Matthews added some pounds this offseason to make him more versatile all along the defensive front.
"Cliff Matthews has done a very good job for us last year," Smith said. "He's come into his own. He's put on a lot of weight in the offseason. We asked him to gain 10-15 pounds and he's done that."
With the addition of college free agents in the offseason on both sides, Smith sees a deep group that can evolve into a physically imposing group at one of the most important areas on a football team.