With Todd McClure's Injury, Joe Hawley Is In The Spotlight

FLOWERY BRANCH GA - JULY 30: Joe Hawley #61 of the Atlanta Falcons runs drills during opening day of training camp on July 30 2010 at the Falcons Training Complex in Flowery Branch Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

I'll start this post by referring you back to my Joe Hawley draft profile of a couple years ago.

Hawley's a confident guy and someone who has a lot to recommend him. There are concerns that he's got a ways to go before he can truly take over for Todd McClure, but I do believe the strength and footwork can be solved by work with a coach and in the weight room. At the very least, he'll be a versatile reserve for many years to come.

Others were more optimistic about Hawley's chances of starting by 2011, and by golly, they were right. It took an injury to Todd McClure--who is now out for the foreseeable future--but Hawley is going to be the Falcons' center for at least one week of the season. Ideally, the team wouldn't be throwing him into the fire so soon, but such is life in the bonecrushing arena of the NFL

Considering he's the team's center of the future, this is a terrific audition for young Hawley. He's a smart, fierce player whose main weakness coming out of college was his footwork, which didn't always give him the leverage he needed to block his dude. That, as I noted at the time, is a very correctable issue, one that I'm sure the coaching staff has worked on with Hawley.

The Falcons brought back Brett Romberg to serve as Hawley's backup in the short-term, but make no mistake. This is his show. Given his talent and his youth, the Falcons should be excited to see what he can do. Cross your fingers that what he does matches up to the lofty standards of Todd McClure.

What are your expectations for Joe Hawley?

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