The Falcons have one of the most enviable tackle situations in football. Jake Matthews is a young, above average left tackle who is getting better every year, and Ryan Schraeder is one of the best right tackles in football. They’re both tough, talented, and durable, and so long as they remain healthy, Atlanta’s in great shape at the position.
There’s a so long tinged with if there, though, and that’s where the question marks come in. The Falcons don’t currently have an established backup at the position, and while there are some interesting young players competing this summer, that’s not an ideal scenario for one of the best teams in the NFL.
Here’s a look at the tackle position for 2017, in all its unsettled glory.
Current Depth Chart
Starters: Jake Matthews, Ryan Schraeder
Reserve Candidates: Kevin Graf, Andreas Knappe, Will Freeman, Daniel Brunskill
You all know about Matthews, who is heading for a huge contract extension, and Schraeder, who already has one. So let’s focus on the others, here.
Graf has been kicking around the roster for a little bit, and was a solid starter at USC. As you’d expect, he’s a good athlete for the position and certainly has more experience with the team than any of the other current candidates, which could very well work in his favor.
Knappe is my sleeper pick at the moment. He’s a fairly recent convert to football, but he’s a great athlete, has the size and strength you look for, and would be a very interesting project for Atlanta on the practice squad if he doesn’t make the roster outright.
Freeman and Brunskill (particularly Brunskill) are both extremely light for tackles, but Brunskill played very well in college and was particularly adept as a run blocker. One or both of these guys could eventually kick over to guard.
As I mentioned above, Atlanta’s in better shape than 95% of teams in the NFL (or maybe even all of them) so long as Matthews and Schraeder stay healthy. Whoever’s the swing tackle in that scenario will get a little special teams work and time to learn on the job, and everyone will be happy.
If injury strikes, though, the Falcons have to be able to press someone into service who isn’t a massive, season trajectory-altering liability at tackle. There’s an element of the unknown here that I wish we didn’t have to consider, but I’m hopeful that one of the men on this roster today will prove to be a worthwhile swing tackle.
Because the specter of injury isn’t something you can ding a team for, necessarily, this is one of the strongest positions on the roster. May it remain so.