There is no way around it, it was simply awful watching the Atlanta Falcons offensive line in 2021. Outside of Jake Matthews and Chris Lindstrom, it seemed more like a turnstile than an NFL offensive line.
It seemed like every play resulted in negative yardage, whether that be due to a sack or a tackle for loss on the running back. No yards came easy for the offense as they had one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines.
Did the Falcons starting center actually have a quietly good year?
On the surface, it would be easy to say that Matt Hennessy was a big part of the Atlanta Falcons offensive line troubles. After all, he was benched at points during the season, but Pro Football Focus actually thinks differently about the guy tasked with filling Alex Mack’s shoes.
Recently, PFF revealed their top 101 players of the 2021 NFL season, almost certainly you can assume every player on that list is at least an above-average starter for their respective teams.
One of the biggest shocks on the list came with the very last player on the list—none other than Matt Hennessy.
Here’s what PFF had to say about him:
"Matt Hennessy was much improved in Year 2 after an ugly rookie campaign a season ago. His overall PFF grade jumped more than 30 points, and his pass-blocking grade was up more than 20. Pass-blocking remains his weaker area, but as a center, it is less of a problem than on other positions on the offensive line. His run-blocking grade of 89.1 was elite, and his trajectory is pointed in the right direction."
They make a valid point, his run-blocking was never the issue, it was his pass-blocking that was the questionable part of his game, but if you are going to have a player struggle in pass-protection, you would always pick your center as they are used mostly for double teams in pass-protection.
One of the games that stood out as one of the worst performances by him was against the New England Patriots in primetime. They also happen to use a nose tackle on seemingly every play, which requires Hennessy to be a main pass-protector. It was a smart maneuver by the Patriots, whether intentional or not.
So, while most people thought Matt Hennessy was a huge portion of the problem, it actually lies almost solely on the shoulders of Jalen Mayfield and Kaleb McGary.
It seems as though the Falcons have found their heir to the great Alex Mack.