By almost any measure you choose, Mike Person was more successful than any of us would have dared dream this past season. He went from a three year likely depth signing to the starting center, finishing up the 2015 season with 14 games started.
Yet despite his unexpected success, Person heads into this coming season with no guarantee that he'll have a starting job, and a widespread expectation that he will not longer be playing center. For those who missed Person's odd season, he's up in our roster review.
The thrill of blocking, the agony of snapping
Person won the starting job over James Stone and Gino Gradkowski after Joe Hawley was cut, and for a while, it looked pretty brilliant. He was a capable run blocking center much of the year, and despite some notably bad games in pass protection, Person was generally not the biggest problem on the interior, where Andy Levitre and Chris Chester sometimes struggled mightily. I'm not suggesting he was good, but he was better than any of us had a right to expect.
Unfortunately, though, he tended to pair his worst performances with bad snaps. You can make a very reasonable argument that the Falcons are a 10-6 football team without some of Person's poor snaps, and while you can say the same thing for Matt Ryan interceptions, poor Dan Quinn in-game decisions, and the complete lack of a pass rush, it stings because these were some bizarre, unforced errors. If Person doesn't botch a snap in 2015, chances are we're singing his praises right now, but he messed up multiple times, and that has most Falcons fans calling for his head.
Person is under contract for two more years, with a $1.16 million cap hit with $333,000 in dead money for 2016, and a $1.27 cap hit with about $167,000 in dead money for 2017. Whether he starts or not, it's a pretty affordable deal.
Person's generally competent blocking and affordability makes him a logical option to replace Chris Chester at right guard, if the Falcons think he's big and strong enough to handle that position, or at least a long look as the team's versatile backup option on the interior of the offensive line. Unless he can convince the Falcons that his snapping is so greatly improved that he won't be making any crushing mistakes, though, his time as the starter at the pivot is probably over.