We come to the end of our offensive line breakdown, and we finish up with a position that should feature a fairly ferocious battle for the starting job.
I'm referring to center, of course, where Peter Konz and Joe Hawley will likely be the primary competitors for the starting gig. A year ago, Konz wound up taking over as the starting right guard and Hawley was a backup who missed time with a four game suspension. Both are quite young, and both have experience playing center.
Let's break it down.
Starter: Peter Konz
Konz will be 24 years old in June, a year after he was drafted in the second round. He may be in a new position in 2013.
Konz played reasonably well at right guard, especially by the end of the year, but center is his position. He comes into 2013 with one primary competitor thanks to Todd McClure's retirement, and will wind up starting somewhere on this line this season. They didn't grab him with their first pick in the 2012 draft to keep the bench entertained with his whimsical yarns about college life in sleepy Wisconsin.
Konz is technically sound and pretty athletic, and he's also a smart player. At 6'5", 317 pounds, he's a big dude for a center. As a center, however, he's an excellent fit based solely on his ability to snap the ball, run-block and move well.
I think Konz and Hawley will have an honest-to-goodness battle for the starting job, but I do think Konz is going to win it. The Falcons want McClure's successor to be someone who can anchor the position for years and has McClure's intuitive understanding of the game. Konz can be that player, and he'll be given his shot in 2013.
Reserve: Joe Hawley
Hawley's an interesting case on a few different levels. The former fourth round pick appeared headed for a long-term starting gig after he got 12 at right guard in 2011. Things have gone downhill since.
Hawley's stint as the starting right guard did not go particularly well. Last year, with right guard unsettled again, he lost out to Garrett Reynolds and then Peter Konz, and he couldn't beat out a fading McClure for a starting gig at center. That four game suspension certainly didn't help matters.
Like Konz, Hawley is best utilized as a center because of his particular blend of football smarts and athleticism, paired with a lack of ideal size at 302 pounds. He can play guard, however, and his positional versatility certainly recommends him for a roster spot. He's also just a little bit older than Konz, as he turns 25 in October.
Hawley's best days could still be ahead of him, and I do think he'll be in competition for the job. Ultimately, though, I think he's likelier to stick as the top backup on the interior line for 2013.
This is a position with two fairly strong players, but neither are proven options. Konz and/or Hawley could be an upgrade over the 2012 version of McClure, and some of that interior depth could be used to further bolster the position. How you grade this probably depends on what you think of Konz or Hawley's ability to step up big in 2013. I'm bullish.