There are many, many questions surrounding the Falcons' offensive line as they prepare to take on the Eagles on Monday Night Football in week one. It's unorthodox at best to jettison the presumed starting center and bring in a brand new left guard, all in the week prior to the start of the regular season.
These moves come on the heels of an offseason filled with shuffling the starting lineup in such a way that indicated the coaching staff wasn't at all satisfied with the players they had on the roster. That shuffling was a concern throughout the preseason, as it's really important for an offensive line to have good chemistry and communication, elements that come from time spent playing together.
With Mike Person taking over the starting role at center and the addition of left guard Andy Levitre as the result of a trade with the Titans, the unit's chemistry and communication remain a concern heading into the Eagles game. Players, however, are not concerned.
Levitre, the new kid on the block, says the offensive line is working to overcome any chemistry and communication issues by spending as much time around each other as possible.
"We're around each other a lot," Levitre said. "I mean, I've already been around these guys a bunch in the past two days, so it's just kind of developing relationships in the meeting rooms, in the locker room, and then carrying it on the field."
Second year tackle Jake Matthews, who's coming off of a back injury, said that his back feels fine and he should be ready to go on Monday night, which should help anchor this unit.
It's especially encouraging that Matthews returned to practice this week, because he thinks that's where the offensive line will develop their chemistry and refine their communication.
"I think practicing is the biggest thing, obviously," Matthews said. "It might sound a little cliche, but we've got to go out there and get to know each other and communicate."
Matthews understands the consequences if the offensive line isn't functioning on the level they need to be, but he's confident he and his teammates will be prepared.
"If one of us messes up, it makes us all look bad," Matthews said. "So staying on the same page and understanding the game plan — I think Coach Morgan's doing a really good job of getting us ready for it, and we're really excited and confident about getting out there and doing a good job."
Mike Person is really eager to take on the responsibilities associated with the center position. Much of this unit's communication will originate with him.
Person has an interesting analogy for his role in the offensive line.
"That all starts with me at center. I have to set the table for everybody," Person said. "I like to throw a lot onto my shoulders, and I have to set the table, make the calls, and help everybody get situated where they're at."
According to Person, the offensive line has a real advocate in quarterback Matt Ryan.
"Matt's great," Person said. "I mean, he's the best quarterback I've been around in terms of letting us make our calls, not rushing us, and asking us if we're ready to go."
What are you expecting from this unit on Monday night?