Tabeek's roster predictions: Falcons offensive line

Several positions are up for grabs but here's an early guess at how the Atlanta Falcons' 53-man roster could look heading into 2020

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here belong to Matthew Tabeek and not the Atlanta Falcons, unless noted otherwise.

A year ago, the biggest offseason story outside of Falcons owner Arthur Blank's decision to retain general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn was the overhauling and rebuilding of the offensive line.

Quick refresher: The Falcons had signed James Carpenter, Jamon Brown, Adam Gettis and John Wetzel in free agency and drafted two offensive linemen (Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary) in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. That all came after quarterback Matt Ryan was hit 108 times and sacked 42 times. How'd it work out? Not only did the Falcons finish with a 7-9 record again, but Ryan was sacked 48 times in 2019 and the offensive line surrendered 50 sacks total last year.

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Despite all of that, there are signs that the offensive line's arrow is pointing upwards. Lindstrom, who was injured in the season opener against the Vikings, returned for the final four games – and the Falcons won all four. Both Lindstrom and McGary, who started all 16 games as a rookie, played well together and made a significant impact during that final month. While Carpenter is back, he is competing with rookie third-round draft pick Matt Hennessy for the starting left guard spot. Hennessy is a player who has the skills to succeed in this scheme and could very well end up starting in Week 1.

As the offensive line continues to evolve and improve, the time is now to execute. The Falcons signed Todd Gurley to a one-year prove-it deal during the offseason in hopes of finally getting the running game going on a more consistent basis. They also went out and traded for tight end Hayden Hurst, one more weapon for Ryan along with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Of course, much of their success will hinge upon the offensive line's ability to protect Ryan and clear paths in the run game.

OVERVIEW

Continuity is key: We all know that one of the keys to being strong up front is to have continuity and great chemistry. Jake Matthews mans the left tackle spot, Matt Ryan's blind side. In five seasons, Matthews has started all 95 games that he has played in, including all 16 games at left tackle in 2019. He was also named to the Pro Bowl in 2018. Don't overlook the importance of that continuity up front. Matthews is a good football player who can get even better.

As good as they come: All Alex Mack does is continue to be one of the best centers in the game. Mack is a six-time Pro Bowler (2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2013, 2010) and has started all 165 games in which he has played, including all 16 games at center in 2019. No one knows (outside of Mack) how long he'll play but once he decides to hang it up, he'll undoubtedly be considered for Canton.

Great aspirations: Second-year right guard Chris Lindstrom has looked terrific in training camp after completely transforming himself physically during the offseason. While he missed the majority of the 2019 season due to a foot injury he sustained in Week 1, he started in all five games he played in (the Falcons went 4-0 to close out the season). Lindstrom says he wants to be the best guard in the NFL and I think the first-round pick out of Boston College is going to have a very good year.

RECENT HISTORY

Here are the number of offensive linemen the Falcons have kept in previous seasons on the initial roster:

LOCKS

Here are the players who I think are locks to make the team (i.e., starters and key reserves) unless something unforeseen should happen (listed in alphabetical order):

  • James Carpenter
  • Matt Gono
  • Matt Hennessy
  • Chris Lindstrom
  • Alex Mack
  • Jake Matthews
  • Kaleb McGary

ON THE BUBBLE

Here are the players who I think are still in the mix to make the team, could land on the practice squad or will be released (listed in alphabetical order):

  • Ka'John Armstrong
  • Justin Gooseberry
  • Sean Harlow
  • Evin Ksiezarczyk
  • Justin McCray
  • John Wetzel

PREDICTION

  • 2020 roster forecast: 8 offensive linemen

Tabeek's Take: I know the Falcons have kept nine offensive linemen during the last three seasons, but I think they'll go with eight on the initial roster this year because of the versatility among this group. Rookie Matt Hennessy, for example, can play both left guard and center. Matt Gono has played a number of different positions during camp, including both tackle and guard. Being able to play those guys at different positions will also allow the Falcons more flexibility with other position groups on the roster, too. Should the Falcons once again keep nine players (and there's a good chance they will), I think it'll come down to Sean Harlow or John Wetzel as far as who makes the cut.

  • James Carpenter
  • Matt Gono
  • Matt Hennessy
  • Chris Lindstrom
  • Alex Mack
  • Jake Matthews
  • Justin McCray
  • Kaleb McGary

PREDICTING THE 53-MAN ROSTER

A look at roster battle at offensive line. The views and opinions represented here and in the corresponding article belong to Matthew Tabeek and not the Atlanta Falcons, unless noted otherwise.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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