Smith: Stone's Position 'Most Cerebral' on the OL

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If the NFL was taking a poll for strongest last names in the National Football League, James Stone would have to be a rock-solid nominee. The rookie center's play has been put to the test against dominant defensive lines in the last couple of outings and he consistently withstood each challenge.

Stone's starting debut in Week 8 against Detroit was overshadowed by a late holding penalty called against him in the fourth quarter of the 22-21 loss. Unshaken, the former Tennessee star took full responsibility for the mistake and utilized the support of his teammates, including quarterback Matt Ryan, who has expressed confidence in Stone's ability from Day 1.

"That meant a lot," Stone said of Ryan. "He's the leader of this offense and the leader of this team. I feel like I owe it to him, because I see how much work he puts in and how much he puts into his craft, so I try to give him and the entire team my best game possible."

Following the loss in London, Stone continued working on his game in the team's Week 9 bye, mentally preparing and staying active. He showcased his efforts against a Bucs defensive front, keeping Ryan clean and playing penalty-free football for all four quarters of the 27-17 win.

Falcons head coach Mike Smith says the center position is "probably the most cerebral position on the offensive line," adding that Stone's play has improved with each game. The more reps he gets, the more progress fans can expect to see from the strong-named center who is embracing the huge responsibility of mastering such a vital spot on the line.

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