Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here belong to Matthew Tabeek and not the Atlanta Falcons, unless noted otherwise.
ATLANTA – Let's pivot back to the offensive side of the ball and dissect the biggest storyline of the Falcons offseason: overhauling the offensive line.
Matt Ryan, who signed a five-year extension worth a reported $150 million prior to the 2018 season, ended up being hit 108 times and sacked 42 times by season's end. Both starting guards – Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco – were eventually lost for the season due to injuries and right tackle Ryan Schraeder’s play was inconsistent. All three linemen, along with Ben Garland and Zane Beadles, are no longer with the team.
The Falcons were not only aggressive in free agency – signing James Carpenter, Jamon Brown, Adam Gettis and John Wetzel – they drafted two offensive linemen in the first round of April's NFL Draft. They also re-signed Ty Sambrailo to a three-year extension.
Now, under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, they’re in the midst of putting it all together.
Two first-round picks: With the 14th overall pick, the Falcons drafted former Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom before trading back into the first round to take former Washington offensive tackle Kaleb McGary at No. 31. Both picks are similar to the other offseason additions when it comes to size. Lindstrom is 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds and McGary is 6-foot-7 and 317 pounds. “We were looking for a tough, gritty, nasty, edgy guy that was going to get out and around really well,” Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff said.
Battle at left guard: The battle for the starting left guard spot between free-agent signees Jamon Brown and James Carpenter is far from being decided. Experience-wise, Carpenter – who is a former first-round pick and has played in 103 games and has made 97 starts – has the edge. But don't sleep on the 6-foot-4, 340-pound Brown, who has also played for the Rams (2015-18) and Giants (2018).
Alex Mack and Jake Matthews are coming off Pro Bowl appearances. Either Jamon Brown or James Carpenter will eventually emerge as the starting left guard, but both will make the team. Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary were just picked in the first round of April's draft, so they're not going anywhere. Prior to the Jets game, Ty Sambrailo had taken virtually every single snap at right tackle with the first team throughout training camp. Sambrailo's shoulder injury has opened the door for Matt Gono and McGary, who'll likely return to action this week against Jacksonville.
- 2019 roster forecast: 9 offensive linemen
I believe the Falcons will once again carry a total of nine offensive linemen into the season. Here's the breakdown by position:
- C Alex Mack
- T Jake Matthews
- T Ty Sambrailo
- T Kaleb McGary
- T Matt Gono
- G Chris Lindstrom
- G Jamon Brown
- G James Carpenter
- G/C Wes Schweitzer
Projected practice squad
There's always a chance that the Falcons could sign a player who is not currently on their roster, but if they stick with their own players, this is my projected 10-player practice squad:
- RB Tony Brooks-James
- WR Christian Blake
- DE Tre' Crawford
- DE Austin Larkin
- DE Durrant Miles
- TE Jaeden Graham
- OT Jaelin Robinson
- S Chris Cooper
- QB Danny Etling
- LB Del’Shawn Phillips
What do you think?
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Matt Tabeek and Will McFadden weigh in with their final thoughts before roster cuts.