It’s well-assumed by now that the Falcons will start free agent acquisition Brandon Fusco at right guard this season.
But, you might want to rethink the idea that this battle is over. Incumbent starter Wes Schweitzer isn’t going down without a fight.
The guard seems to be splitting time with Fusco in early training camp in running with the first team, which indicates that the Falcons are going to give the former sixth-rounder a chance to win the role.
Though, that might not even be the most striking evidence. In the team’s pre-camp meeting, Dan Quinn singled out Schweitzer in particular for the offseason he’s been putting in, which, well, is a big deal.
"You’re about to create the most special environment in sports because of who you are together, collectively."— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) July 27, 2018
Dan Quinn addressed the team Thursday night. pic.twitter.com/kA5aD6KT4R
Schweitzer’s 2017 was admittedly rocky, a season where he steadily improved as a run blocker but faltered as a pass blocker, and took his lumps in the playoffs against elite competition. If you want to pinpoint one of the big reasons the offense took a step back in 2017, losing Chris Chester qualifies as such. It’s not that Wes was awful, but he wasn’t ideal for what the team needed week-by-week. It was an obvious year of growing pains.
The team bringing in Fusco seemed to indicate that, well, Schweitzer was headed toward clipboard country, but Quinn calling him out in particular in front of the whole team in an offseason where apparently everyone has been putting in the lion’s share is, again, a big freaking deal.
Fusco is being paid like a starter. If he somehow lost the job to Schweitzer, it would probably give the Falcons the most expensive pair of reserve guards in the NFL. Both he and Ben Garland would be making about $6 million together this season. You’d have to think Fusco would be cut if Schweitzer won the gig.
But, if Schweitzer indeed heads to a reserve role, he’d no doubt stick around. He’s on a very affordable rookie salary, and would be excellent depth should something happen to Fusco. He could also be a traded to a team desperate for a guard should injury strike their franchise, though that seems unlikely. He won’t be cut, no matter what, unless he absolutely bombs in preseason, which also feels rather unlikely.
So, for now, we’ll see if Schweitzer indeed can ride a strong offseason into one of the surprises of the 2018 season: him having a starting role on the team’s offensive line. Fusco is still very much the favorite, but Wes could still sneak up behind him and claim the spot as rightfully his.
Forget fullback. This is the battle of camp. We’ll see who wins out.