clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The evolution of the Falcons OG position, 2008-2018

Left guard has been a source of stability and strength, and right guard....has not.

Atlanta Falcons v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Stability has been a major key for the Falcons over the past decade-plus. At those positions where the team has been able to lock in a high-end starter for 4-10 seasons, they’ve generally fared quite well. When the cycling starts, things tend to go awry, as we saw at a tight end position that grew weak in the in-between years with Tony Gonzalez and Austin Hooper. The same was true as the Falcons transitioned away from Tyson Clabo and Sam Baker at tackle.

It holds true at guard, as well. Left guard has enjoyed relative stability and thus (generally) quality play. Right guard has been the position where the Falcons have largely decided they can save money and experiment, and the results there have been decidedly mixed as a result. Let’s get into that now.

As was the case with tackle, some of the depth charts may be a bit skewed by my memory, because it’s very difficult to look up old depth charts that are accurate. If you have better memories for whether Harland Gunn was the third or fourth guard on the depth chart, by all means, lord that over me.

Falcons OGs

Year LG RG OG3 OG4 OG5
Year LG RG OG3 OG4 OG5
2008 Justin Blalock Harvey Dahl Alex Stepanovich Ben Wilkerson
2009 Justin Blalock Harvey Dahl Brett Romberg Garrett Reynolds
2010 Justin Blalock Harvey Dahl Joe Hawley Garrett Reynolds Rob Bruggeman
2011 Justin Blalock Joe Hawley Garrett Reynolds Brett Romberg Rob Bruggeman
2012 Justin Blalock Peter Konz Garrett Reynolds Joe Hawley Harland Gunn
2013 Justin Blalock Garrett Reynolds Joe Hawley Harland Gunn Mike Johnson
2014 Justin Blalock Jon Asamoah Joe Hawley Harland Gunn Gabe Carimi
2015 Andy Levitre Chris Chester Gino Gradkowski Jake Long
2016 Andy Levitre Chris Chester Wes Schweitzer Tom Compton
2017 Andy Levitre Wes Schweitzer Sean Harlow Jamil Douglas Austin Pasztor
2018 Andy Levitre* Brandon Fusco* Wes Schweitzer Zane Beadles

The first thing that jumps out here is that the Falcons were insanely lucky to have Justin Blalock and Andy Levitre. Injury became a factor late in both of their Atlanta tenures, but Blalock started seven straight seasons and played at a reasonably high level throughout, with his mauling run blocking tendencies helping out a lot in those early Michael Turner years. He was and remains a criminally underrated player.

Until injury robbed Levitre of the ability to get on the field, he started nearly three full seasons at left guard and was on track to start a fourth, meaning the left guard position has largely been split between two players since 2008. That’s relatively stable, and now Chris Lindstrom could be coming in and taking that job over the long haul, even if he winds up at right guard for 2019.

Oh, and speaking of right guard, that’s been a little more of a fiasco. No position on the offensive line has enjoyed less stability over the past decade-plus, with the team having eight different tabbed starters there, plus perhaps a half dozen other players mixing in to earn starts along the way. Those players have ranged from good (Dahl) to fine (Chester) to desperate stopgaps and unsatisfying options (Reynolds, Konz). The only common thread is that aside from Dahl, the full-time starter for three straight years, no one has been able to hold on to that job for more than two years in a row. The hope for the Falcons will be that Lindstrom or free agent signing Jamon Brown, who earned a pretty hefty paycheck for the next four seasons, can stabilize that position for at least that long.

The team’s depth situation has scarcely been better, with Reynolds, Hawley and Schweitzer being the only players who managed to latch on for any length of time and impact games. Reynolds was a quasi-tackle who did a solid job when pressed into a full-time role, Hawley was very solid at guard and center, and Schweitzer has been (considering draft status and expectations) a pretty damn good break-in-case-of-emergency option at guard himself. It would be fair to say the Falcons have never gone into a year with the kind of depth they’ll enjoy in 2019 thanks to James Carpenter, Brown, Schweitzer, and maybe Sean Harlow, and it speaks to how tired they must be of rolling the dice every year.

Overall, guard has been a tale of two positions in the Matt Ryan era. Left guard has largely offered stability and quality play, while right guard has veered between decent play and substandard play with a ton of guys cycling through. The relative lack of success that approach has afforded is part of why we find ourselves here, with the Falcons having spent big and expended their 14th overall pick on Lindstrom, and hopefully we’re entering a new golden age of guards in Atlanta.