The Falcons picked an offensive lineman in the draft, but it was in the seventh round - Jake Rodgers, a 6-6, 320-pound tackle from Eastern Washington.
That’s it. The Falcons could have taken an offensive lineman in the second round, but instead they took another cornerback – Jalen Collins from LSU.
So this means the Falcons seem satisfied with their offensive line. It also means the team will be gambling on having a lot of injured players from a year ago that must bounce back.
The team is going to a zone blocking scheme, so maybe the new coaching staff simply believes it should give the existing players a chance to see what they can do before having a complete overhaul on the line.
And there are a number of players who were expected to be significant players last year that will be back from injuries. Sam Baker missed the entire season. Joe Hawley and Lamar Holmes both played in just four games, while Peter Konz missed the last nine games of the season.
Let’s take a look at the five positions and who the candidates will be for playing time in 2015.
Candidates: Sam Baker, Jake Matthews
Last season Baker was the expected starter, but he was injured in training camp and missed the entire season. Rookie Jake Matthews moved over from right tackle and started all but one game, when he was injured in week two. Matthews must recover from a surgery himself, so both players will have to show they are healthy. The Falcons have hinted they would prefer to have Baker back at left tackle and have Matthews go back to right tackle. But several things will impact this position. First, there is a chance they could move Baker inside to left guard, as Justin Blalock must be replaced. If so, Matthews could stay at left tackle, which would leave Ryan Schraeder as the starter at right tackle.
Candidates: Sam Baker, Mike Person, Joe Hawley, Peter Konz
Baker will be considered as a replacement for Blalock. The Falcons could go with Mike Person, who is the lone free agent offensive lineman signed this offseason. Another option could be Hawley, who has played significant time at guard. If James Stone is good at center, the Falcons may prefer to have Hawley at guard. Konz will have to show he’s healthy, but he started six games at right guard in 2013.
Candidates: Joe Hawley, James Stone
The preference is likely to have Hawley regain the position. He’s got more experience than Stone, who stepped in and performed well for an undrafted free agent. Stone started the last nine games of the season at center. But if Stone plays well and if the need is greater for Hawley to move to guard, Stone could get the nod here. Stone does provide the team with a great option for the versatile Hawley to move over if needed.
Candidates: Jon Asamoah
This should be the only position that is not a question mark on the line of scrimmage. Asamoah started all but one game at the right guard last season. Would they consider moving Asamoah to left guard if there are issues, considering Konz’ experience is at right guard? That’s doubtful. They’ll likely prefer to keep Asamoah right where he’s at.
Candidates: Jake Matthews, Ryan Schraeder, Lamar Holmes
So Matthews might simply slip right back to his original expected position at right guard, but again, he must prove he is healthy. If he’s not, Schraeder will get his chance. But what if Schraeder shows the coaches he can handle the position? Then, they may prefer to leave Matthews at left tackle and either slide Baker to left guard or have/ Baker as a backup. Holmes must prove he is healthy to get in the rotation, but will the new scheme make him a better option?
The injuries are going to determine a lot. The new coaches must see which of the injured players are ready to go. Then, they get mix and match and see who fits where in the new scheme. The numbers are there. The quantity is there. But is there quality? Well, they must believe so, or they would have added a higher draft pick at the position.
Considering their tone going into the draft, it’s not a total shock. The new coaches and the front office seem satisfied with the options. But this area is still a question mark heading into the summer months.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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