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Falcons Training Camp 2015: A first team offensive line emerges

After days and days of shuffling along the offensive line, it seems like the team has settled on a starting five for Friday's game.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Today's practice had a very different feel from yesterday's. Fewer fans are free to attend on Mondays, and attendance was light. Players were in shorts and helmets as they worked to refine elements from the last scheme install.

Devin Hester did not practice with the toe injury that kept him out yesterday, also. Dan Quinn said yesterday that he believes Hester will be back very soon. Cliff Matthews is still out with an ankle injury, and Brooks Reed continues to be sidelined with the groin/hip strain that has plagued him pretty consistently. Both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman were held out of practice with their respective hamstring injuries, but both guys were running and making cuts as they worked with the athletic performance staff, so that's probably a good sign in terms of how their rehab is progressing.


For the first time since camp began, there was some consistency with the starting five offensive linemen between yesterday's practice and today's. The team had Jake Matthews at left tackle, James Stone at left guard, Joe Hawley at center, Chris Chester at right guard, and Ryan Schraeder at right tackle. According to Quinn, Schraeder and Matthews are set at the tackle position, and it seems reasonable to expect the team to roll with Chester and Stone at the guard positions heading into preseason action on Friday. Quinn made it sound like the team isn't entirely settled on Joe Hawley at center, suggesting that a battle continues between Mike Person and Hawley.

The run blocking in particular with that first team offensive line unit looked cohesive.

Both Terron Ward and Antone Smith got plenty of first team reps with Coleman and Freeman out. Smith had a fumble today, but otherwise played well. Ward has a really complete skill set and continues to make a strong case for final roster consideration.

Carlton Mitchell, an undrafted free agent out of South Florida, started out having a rough day with a few drops, but when the team moved into one-on-ones, he pulled it together and was very consistent.

Dan Quinn talks a lot about coveting length in players, and in Leonard Hankerson's case, his catch radius demonstrates why Quinn's so focused on that physical trait.


In one-on-ones, Dezmen Southward is still lagging a bit and allowing receivers to get separation. He looks much more comfortable in special teams work.

Phillip Adams was taking first team snaps in the nickel, and he spent some time at left cornerback with the second team defense. Adams has been consistent throughout OTAs and training camp, and he has a legitimate shot to earn a lot of playing time at nickelback.

Nathan Stupar dropped an interception, but I liked the way he read the play and reacted to the ball.

Fan Questions

Hard to say. I think Peter Konz's experience at guard is an asset, but Person also has that versatility and the team seems to see him as a better fit based on reps.

Slimmer, faster. I was impressed with Jackson's agility for his size last year. Best case scenario would be Jackson living up to his contract this season.

Truthfully, I think the time Asamoah missed with the ankle injury and then the stomach virus hindered him, and Stone has looked good, particularly his footwork. Stone's really intelligent and has done a great job of picking up the scheme.

I don't recall seeing Asamoah at left guard at all, but don't quote me on that. With 90 guys on the field, it's possible I missed it.

I am actually optimistic about the pass rush. I think the new scheme puts guys in the position to make plays, and I'm really impressed with the pressure the team is bringing up the middle and what Vic Beasley can do coming off the edge.

Soliai looks fine. There's no question he'll be the starter as long as he stays healthy.

I would, but I'm too sweaty and gross to hug people. I don't want Beasley to hate me.

I think we'll see him a lot this season in the nickel role.

I projected the starting offensive line as Matthews, Chester, Hawley, Asamoah and Schraeder, and I still think that could be the makeup by the time the season starts.

I sincerely doubt it. I think the team already has Freeman and Coleman penciled in for the final roster, and I don't anticipate the coaching staff being willing to rush those guys back.

It's really hard to assess the lines without pads on, but I did feel like the offensive line looked a little more cohesive, particularly in run blocking situations, than they have the past few days. The defensive line is still coming off the snap really fast, which is fun to see.

I mean, you're gauging play at two totally different positions. I think Stone looks pretty good at guard. We'll have a better idea of how prepared he is on Friday. As far as Adams, yes, I defiitely expect him to take first team snaps at nickel on Friday.

I really do.

If they could get to around 40 sacks, I think I'd be pretty happy with that level of improvement. That would have been around the middle of the league last season and would nearly double the number of sacks the Falcons had last year.

Nothing is set in stone at this point. Collins could come out and blow everyone away in the preseason and change the entire approach. I've been really impressed with Adams and believe he's currently the frontrunner for snaps at nickel, but keep an eye on these guys throughout the preseason.

I think he's been outplayed by Ricardo Allen thus far. He'll likely stick as necessary depth.

Stop, drop and roll, bro.

They're doing a lot with the front seven in practice. Beasley looks good coming off the snap from either side. I expect them to move him around for matchup purposes, and I think that will be a pretty successful approach. Clayborn has also impressed from defensive end and from the interior line.

That's really between Dave and my agent. Honestly, I can't worry about that. I'm just here to report and help the team at The Falcoholic win.

Durant looks to be penciled in for a starting role. He looks solid, and the coaching staff loves both his ability and leadership.

Both Ward and Smith have been getting plenty of first team reps. I'd say Ward is the starter Friday, but expect Smith to get plenty of work. The coaching staff has been impressed by his play these past few days.