There is no getting around the fact that much of the reason the Atlanta Falcons are winless is due to their poor offensive line play. They do not have the luxury of passing the ball on straight dropbacks because the line cannot hold up for two seconds.
The three culprits of the disaster up front are Jalen Mayfield, Matt Hennessy, and Kaleb McGary.
Those three guys have cost the team countless points through the first two weeks of the season. While Jake Matthews and Chris Lindstrom are holding their own despite utter chaos around them.
Kaleb McGary is the key to fixing the Falcons line.
The biggest factor in this solution is the Falcon’s current right tackle – Kaleb McGary – he is the center of the potential change.
If you have followed the draft for the past few years then you probably know why many were concerned about Kaleb McGary playing tackle in the NFL. It comes down to the simple fact that he does not have long arms.
To play tackle in the NFL you need to be able to reach guys and anchor them. If you have physical limitations when it comes to how long your arms are, you will undoubtedly struggle to reach pass rushers who already have the advantage over offensive linemen.
Kaleb McGary’s arms are listed as being a hair under 33 inches.
To put it in the most simple way possible, that is short compared to most tackles in the league, it is in the ninth percentile among players being tested in the combine.
This means that 91% of players listed as tackle coming out of college have longer arms than McGary. This is the reasoning for most analysts thinking he should make the switch to guard in the NFL.
33 inch arms are extremely short for a tackle in the NFL, but that cannot be said for the guard position.
Shuffling Kaleb McGary, and possibly others, is the fix to the Falcons offensive line.
The Atlanta Falcons need to think long and hard about moving Kaleb McGary to either left guard or right guard.
This is the best way for them to cover up his weakness of pass protecting in space. He has been a pretty good run blocker during his career but struggles when asked to block edge players. He just simply cannot keep up with them and cannot get an anchor on them.
Moving him to guard would help him be able to rely more on power rather than agility.
It would be up to the Falcons if they would want to move Chris Lindstrom – who has been playing great – to the left side and slot McGary in at right guard, or do the opposite – McGary to left guard, Lindstrom stays put on the right side.
There are definitely arguments for both options.
Having Lindstrom stay where he is at would help him be able to focus on being consistent, but would force McGary to learn a new position while learning to play on the opposite side of the center.
On the flip side if you switch Lindstrom to left guard, you are able to have your best pass protector to the blindside of Matt Ryan – which is the best case scenario – while having McGary stay on the right side of the line.
Most teams usually put their best pass protecting and athletic guard to the left side and their best run blocker to the right side. McGary has excelled in his run blocking, so obviously it would be ideal for him to stay on the same side.
Having Kaleb move to guard would also kill two birds with one stone – Jalen Mayfield would not have to start every Sunday, so he could continue to develop while also not costing the team.
The biggest problem with this solution is the question of who would play right tackle?
And a big problem it is, but luckily for Atlanta there are a couple good options on the free agent market.
Starting with Rick Wagner who has been a quality starter throughout his career. Wagner can still be a high quality starter in the league. He has mainly played right tackle during the duration of his career, so that is a huge positive.
He also only allowed one sack for the Green Bay Packers in 610 snaps last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Kaleb McGary has already allowed one sack and countless pressures on Matt Ryan through two games. It is a no-brainer for Atlanta to at least give him a shot.
The second free agent option is the veteran Russell Okung.
Okung has only played seven snaps during his career, at right tackle, compared to his 7,876 snaps at left tackle. That is concerning but, again, it is worth a shot. He also allowed three sacks last season in 406 snaps, so not as good as Rick Wagner, but still an upgrade.
Next would be Mitchell Schwartz, the former Kansas City Chief. He is an interesting option because he has been dominant during his career but had his season cut short last year due to a back injury. It was not hard to see how much the Chief’s line suffered after they lost him.
He was not quite as dominant last season but he was still special, allowing one sack in each of the first two games but from then on he did not allow another one until his injury.
Last, but not least, would be Demar Dotson who was with the Denver Broncos last season and allowed zero sacks as a right tackle in 451 snaps. That is another clear-cut upgrade over McGary’s current play.
In a perfect scenario this is how the offensive line should look for the Falcons:
- LT: Jake Matthews
- LG: Chris Lindstrom
- C: Matt Hennessy
- RG: Kaleb McGary
- RT: Rick Wagner
There is still obviously the concern of Matt Hennessy, but he is a talented player who is still learning. If there is one position that you can afford a struggling player, it is the center position – provided that all the snaps are on target.
For the Arthur Smith and the rest of the offensive staff, they must look at this as a serious option. At this point things could not get much worse.
We will see if the Falcons show any signs of changing things up a bit, it would be dumb of them to watch this line get dominanted every week expecting a different result.