Lately, any Atlanta Falcons blog entry wouldn’t be complete without some mention of the offensive line. With the addition of new a new offensive coordinator, new pieces on the offensive line, and the rest of the talent on the line getting older or more veteran, not enough can be said for the players who could play a major part at more than one position on the O-line. Joe Hawley is, perhaps, the #1 example of this for the Falcons.
Hawley was a 4th round pick in 2010 out of UNLV where he played both Guard and Center, although he showed more promise at the Center position. He only saw playing time as a backup in 2010, but saw the field extensively in 2011. He started the first two games of the season at Center when Todd McClure was injured, and then he moved over to Right Guard when McClure returned. His cross training in college allowed him to be serviceable at both positions in 2011. He was fairly good Center, who was serviceable at RG. At the time, I thought he was the C of the future. He may still be, but at the time he was also better than any other options we had at RG. His versatility made life slightly easier on the turbulent offensive line of 2011.
Here comes the dilemma in 2012. Where will he play? I don’t think there is any doubt that Peter Konz will play RG in 2012. He hasn’t won the job yet, but I think that is only a matter of time. Without a doubt, Hawley will be the backup at C and RG. But should he be? Perhaps he can beat McClure out of camp. McClure has loads more experience making the offensive line calls at the line of scrimmage and how to properly gain leverage, but Hawley is at this stage a lot more physically capable of generating a push from his position. I’m not saying that he is a mauler at either of those positions (as our performance against the NY Giants in 4th&inches situations would indicate), but that he could legitimately step in at C this season, or as the starter in 2013.
Having that type of versatility is a tremendous asset, but the Falcon fan as well as front office would be wise not to become dependent on that. It would be great if Hawley would beat out McClure at C, play there for the next ten years, allow Konz to play RG for the next ten years, and have solid options at 80% of the offensive line. The reality is that he may not work out, we may have to move Konz to the C position in 2013, leaving Hawley and an entire cast of characters to duke it out for the starting job. We would also have the Left Tackle position to address (pending Baker/Svitek’s 2012 performance. If Hawley has been gaining size and strength enough to complete and win the center position from here on out, the Falcons could be in excellent shape for the foreseeable future. If this jack-of-all-trades turns out to be a master of none, his versatility won’t really matter, and the Falcons will be in trouble indeed.