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Despite the position’s depth, guard looms as a possible trouble spot for Atlanta

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The Falcons need to stay healthy and effective.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons have signaled, through their words and actions, that they’re content with the guard position on the 2018 roster. They have options galore there at the moment, with veteran Brandon Fusco expected to start at right guard, Andy Levitre expected to start at left guard if healthy, and steady veteran Ben Garand providing depth at both spots. That’s not even mentioning Wes Schweitzer, a starting-caliber (if not great) guard who started 18 games in 2017, or last year’s fourth round selection Sean Harlow, an athletic player who had a year of marinating on the bench.

This is a long-winded way of saying that the Falcons have at least five guards competing for roster spots right now, and that barring injury or meltdown, four or even all five of them will be on the 2018 roster. Yet for all that depth, guard looms as perhaps the team’s largest weakness heading into the summer.

Why?

Part of that is just a testament to the strength of the rest of the roster. The Falcons have a top-tier starting quarterback, three quality running backs, promising receivers and tight ends, capable starting tackles and a great center, and impressive starters and depth more or less across the defense. You can certainly point to fullback, which is unsettled, or the team’s uncertain depth at defensive tackle as real concerns for the upcoming season, but they’re not fatal weaknesses just yet.

It probably seems odd to hear me say that because I was so dead set against the Falcons using a top pick at the guard position, but I simultaneously believe Atlanta will be fine this season if Fusco and Levitre stay healthy and effective and worry that they won’t. This is a crucial bridge year for the left guard position, with Levitre locking down the position until Harlow or a draft pick is ready to take over a year from now, while Fusco is likely to be the starter for 2018 and 2019. Garland’s a nice sub and Schweitzer is a fine player in his own right, but neither one would be the team’s preferred option for any length of time.

Implications

Perhaps selecting one of the better guards in this class would have represented an immediate upgrade this year, and perhaps not, but it was clear the Falcons believe they’ve addressed the position for the moment. Barring an injury or the opportunity to scoop up a quality guard once roster cuts come in late in the summer, they’ll likely stand pat, and perhaps all this fretting will amount to naught.

For a team that has all the personnel to field an elite offense, however, a little concern over a potential liability is not unwarranted. If Fusco has a career year and Levitre is very good again, we’ll sing the front office’s praises. If Harlow or Schweitzer looks like a new man in relief, same deal.

Of course, if you have two solid starters and some decent reserves at one of your greatest positions of weakness and you’re worried about hypothetical injuries, you’re probably in pretty good shape. The Falcons certainly are, but they’ll be in even better shape if my concerns about guard don’t materialize.

What positions are you concerned about?