I said a couple of months ago that I anticipated that James Stone might start at left guard, and at the time, that statement was met with a justifiable mix of thoughtful consideration and questions about my sanity. I don't think that idea is so far-fetched, now.
The Falcons elected not to address guard until the seventh round, and that was by taking Jake Rodgers, who the team insists will start his career at tackle regardless of how many believe he should play inside in the NFL. As of now, there is no obvious starting left guard on the Falcons' roster, which has led to no small amount of fearful (and again, justified) grumbling from those who have seen far too much crappy line play from Atlanta in recent years.
So what's the plan, here?
Unless someone shakes loose who would represent a tangible upgrade, this has the makings of a wide-open competition. Freshly signed free agents Mike Person and Jared Smith will be in the mix alongside incumbents like Stone, Peter Konz, Harland Gunn and perhaps even Sam Baker, should he avoid the axe over the next two months. There's not a ton to be inspired by, there, but throwing numbers at the position will hopefully lead to someone stepping up and seizing the job. My money is on Stone, at the moment.
The Falcons can sort of afford to do this because they have a handful of players they clearly like more than the fans do, and because the rest of the line could be sneakily effective in 2015, they might be able to largely get by. That assumes good health and improvement from players like Jake Matthews, Ryan Schraeder and perhaps Lamar Holmes, and just plain ol' good health for Joe Hawley and Jon Asamoah. If you squint and use your imagination, though, you can see how the team is prioritizing the line. We just have no idea if it's going to work out.
Any way you slice it, this is a year where a relatively unknown or previously disappointing player excels at left guard, or it's a year where disappointing left guard play hurts the Falcons, leading them to use a first-or-second day selection on the position in 2016. Either way, we're going to need to see a lot from the competitors