For the fifth straight season, the Atlanta Falcons will go into the season with the offensive line being a red flag for the franchise.
Looking at the initial Atlanta Falcons depth chart in 2020 and comparing it to what 2021 will look like, the franchise will again be replacing pieces from the previous year. Gone are left guard James Carpenter and center, Alex Mack.
Carpenter has yet to be claimed and is still a free agent while Alex Mack signed a 3 year $14.8 million deal with the 49ers this offseason.
Coming back in 2021 are left tackle Jake Matthews, right guard Chris Lindstrom as well as right tackle Kaleb McGary. The Atlanta Falcons are hoping that second-year center/guard Matt Hennessy will take over Mack at center while 2021 third-round pick Jalen Mayfield will compete for the starting left guard spot.
Atlanta Falcons could be better upfront in 2021
In 2016 when the Atlanta Falcons made their inexplicable run to the Super Bowl, the offensive line had the same five starters all season long and was a big reason for the team’s success. That group seems to be an afterthought when fans talk about that year, it’s usually Kyle Shanahan getting all the credit.
There will definitely be a learning curve for the Falcons in 2021 as they learn a new system under a new head coach Arthur Smith and do so without Julio Jones as well as an entirely new backfield.
Somehow, the offensive line returning 60 percent of its starters from a year ago seems somewhat stable.
The biggest question is going to be Matt Hennessy replacing Alex Mack, it’s not a coincidence that some of Matt Ryan’s best years as a passer came with the All-Pro center in front of him. While Hennessy is an unknown commodity at center, let’s remember what NFL.com had to say about him heading into last year’s draft –
"He’s patient to center blocks and runs his feet to lock in and begin sustaining. He has the lateral quickness and body control to reach, pull and stay connected to blocks on the move. He has issues with timing blocks up to linebackers, but that should be correctable. Below-average physical traits could limit his suitors, but scheme fits will like the movement and intangibles he brings to the table. He has early backup, eventual starter potential."
If that overview proves to be true and both Hennessy and Mayfield are better than their 2020 counterparts, the Atlanta Falcons offensive line could go from one of the league’s worst groups to one of the league’s best groups.