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James Stone And The Tremendous Opportunity

Stone has a real chance to seize a significant role for the Falcons.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons have been reluctant to give some of their young players more snaps, which makes a certain amount of sense when you're fighting to keep a season and your jobs alive. I said a certain amount of sense, not much.

James Stone is one young Falcon getting an opportunity because...well, because there aren't a lot of options. Harland Gunn is the only other guy with any real center experience on the roster today, and the team seems committed to giving Stone a genuine chance as the starting center. When you're a rookie UDFA, you rarely walk into opportunities like this one, where you have more than half the season to audition for a roster spot and perhaps even a starting job down the line.

I wouldn't say Stone has been good thus far—he was part of the pass protection problem against the Lions, and his holding penalty and delayed snap were costly—but he's been better than you would anticipate he would be, given the challenges facing him. Peter Konz could be gone next season and Joe Hawley is only under contract for 2015. If Stone impresses this year, he's the unquestioned backup next year and could make a bid to take over the starting gig in 2016, a trajectory I think the rookie would be pretty happy with.

To get there, he'll need to clean up some of his mental mistakes and improve his technique, because he's not going to get drastically stronger or quicker during the season. If he shows enough progress through the rest of the 2014 slate, those fans who saw a starting gig in his future may be proven correct.

What's Stone's future with the Falcons, in your opinion?