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Could Chris Chester start at center if Joe Hawley isn't ready?

Atlanta's new interior lineman signed with the Falcons thanks to an easy path to start at left guard... or even center.

Hawley having a slow recovery?
Hawley having a slow recovery?
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons center Joe Hawley tore his ACL in week 4, but has been expected to be ready for week 1. That assumption may be wrong, per ESPN's Adam Caplan, who has been on top of the Chris Chester news this offseason.

Chester apparently picked Atlanta over the Eagles for a better shot at starting. He will have very little competition for the left guard position, but the news about center is most surprising. A few months ago, Hawley said he expected to be in fighting form by training camp. If Caplan's information is correct, Hawley may be no guarantee to be game-ready by week 1.

It is hard to get a great grasp on Hawley's health, but he has not yet been practicing with the team. Per Falcoholic beat writer Jeanna Thomas, Hawley has been limited to working with team trainers. Whether or not Chester eventually plays at center is unclear, but he is certainly a near-guarantee to start somewhere along the line.

If Chester bet on himself and took less money from the Falcons to ensure a starting spot, he may have a better read on Hawley's health than what has been otherwise reported. Hawley's health could be a bigger question mark than previously expected, and should be closely monitored.