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Gino Gradkowski could get the start at center against 49ers, per ESPN

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The third-stringer for much of the season might get his first start since 2013, and there are reasons to be both concerned and optimistic.

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Mike Person is dealing with an ankle injury, and it appears the Falcons may very well start their third different center of the year this Sunday against the 49ers.

Earlier this week, a reader went back and forth on Twitter with Jeanna and I about the possibility of Gradkowski starting, a possibility I all but dismissed. Needless to say, I'll be eating crow Sunday if he gets the start, something I was and remain wary about for a couple of reasons. If this ends up being one of those scenarios where I'm horribly wrong and people remind me about it for the next five years as Gradkowski pulls down Pro Bowl berths as the team's starting center, I'll certainly live with that.

The biggest knock against Gradkowski has been his performance as a blocker during his previous stints, not his ability to snap the football. There's little question that he's capable of snapping at a more consistent level than Person or nominal backup James Stone, but during his 16 game starting stint with the Ravens back in 2013, he graded out as the worst center in football per Pro Football Focus, and struggled in pass protection versus quality interior defensive linemen. He's still just 27 and may have upside no one's seen, however. The team clearly feels he offers more upside at the position than Stone, whose best shot to stick around in Atlanta will likely come at guard going forward.

Bottom line: It's something new, and this staff is showing once again that they're not afraid to shake things up in pursuit of better play. I hope Gradkowski proves me wrong Sunday and has a terrific game, and he should at least be able to avoid the terrible snaps that have wrecked Falcons drives multiple times this season.