The Falcons had one of the best, and certainly the most durable, offensive lines in football last year. That was integral to the team’s offensive success, and it will be again in 2017. Full stop.
As time has gone on, the offensive line has become my biggest concern heading into the season for what looks like a great, deep team. The Falcons got extraordinary injury luck last year that we hope will continue, but even if all their starters are healthy, we still do not know who is going to win the right guard job and how they will perform.
That graphic below illustrates that vividly.
A look at the Atlanta Falcons offensive line heading into 2017 pic.twitter.com/ZvL4k8SKQj— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) August 17, 2017
Garland played very sparingly, so you shouldn’t take that grade as a sign of how he’ll perform if he wins the job. The problem is that we don’t know how good Garland is as a guard—he got just a bit more time there than defensive tackle, after all—and Schweitzer is even more of a cipher. The winner could be a huge pleasant surprise, but in all likelihood we’re in for some bumbling and growing pains. That’s survivable, understandable, and perfectly okay, given that either of these guys could turn into a long-term starter of great value for Atlanta. It’s just a potential trouble spot in the here and now.
I’m less worried about Jake Matthews, who has a ton of experience and considerable talent, despite his grade above. The line is still going to be a strength for Atlanta, but that guard battle remains a vital one, and the link in the chain most likely to imperil the whole thing. May the best man win.