In the 2021 NFL Draft, the first for the Atlanta Falcons in a new regime, the organization drafted a young offensive lineman named Jalen Mayfield. A tackle out of Michigan, his notoriety in the pre-draft process was a tweet he made about protecting quarterbacks at the next level.
In his rookie season, the Falcons planned to have him as a backup player, but an injury to Josh Andrews saw Mayfield thrust into a position he wasn’t familiar with: the interior offensive line. Because of this, Mayfield infamously struggled against top-tier interior defensive linemen and also caused former quarterback Matt Ryan to be sacked 11 times (league-worst) and graded the 75th offensive linemen out of 80.
At the time, head coach Arthur Smith stated that Mayfield was “being thrown into the fire”, and that statement rang true, even if he struggled mightily at a foreign position.
Entering his second season, the Falcons said left guard would be a position of competition, so hopefully, Mayfield could show some improvement (even slightly) with a new regime and two new men under center.
The Falcons brass MUST cut their losses on Mayfield before he hurts another quarterback
However, it’s clear that Mayfield cannot do anything right at left guard, or maybe even the offensive line, period.
It’s one thing to get trounced by guys like Fletcher Cox, and Vita Vea, among others, but that’s just a given as a young player. Those are top-tier players who routinely need double teams and can still break through and pressure a quarterback.
However, to get beat by undrafted free agent defensive linemen, and badly, is incomprehensibly bad. Abhorrent, to say the least.
Right now, he’s the literal definition of the word “offensive”. And even more insane? The team brought in Elijah Wilkinson to compete with Mayfield, but when the incumbent starter hasn’t been in the starting lineup during camp since the second day? Unacceptable.
The Falcons brass needs to admit they made a mistake with Mayfield and cut their losses. At least Thomas Dimitroff admitted when he loused up on certain draft picks. No general manager or coach is ever perfect in a draft (do we need to bring up the 2012 or 2015 drafts?)
It’s not wrong to say that these guys try to work hard. But in any job, if someone is not progressing but actually regressing, the natural option is to cut their losses with said underperformer before the company suffers entirely.
Essentially, Falcons fans, we’ve all been accustomed to how problematic Mayfield has been for the offensive line. And while Kaleb McGary hasn’t been good either, at least he’s in the know that he’s on a contract year and has performed well enough to where Germain Ifedi, his competition, hasn’t made the starting rotation to date.
It might do them a world of good rather than risking more quarterback injuries. And it might give the Falcons a chance in 2022 and beyond.