We’re officially only one week away from the beginning of the Falcons’ 2019 training camp. I’m excited to finally have something tangible to write about, rather than endless speculation. In the meantime, I’ve got a little more speculation for you concerning Atlanta’s offensive line starters. In particular, the starting guards. The Falcons invested significant resources—more than any other position—in improving this group from the ground up. Three players, who will all be in their first year with the team, are competing for the two starting jobs.
Let’s take a closer look at the contenders for the starting guard roles heading into training camp.
Chris Lindstrom, 22, entering his 1st season with Atlanta
The Falcons’ first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft at 14 overall, Chris Lindstrom is all but guaranteed a starting job during the 2019 season. Lindstrom is a fantastic athlete who is technically sound and clearly fits the scheme the team is trying to run. The bigger questions are whether he’ll begin training camp as the starter—he’s already received the bulk of the starting reps at right guard—and how well he’ll perform during his rookie season.
James Carpenter, 30, entering his 1st season with Atlanta
The first of two big free agent additions to the offensive line this offseason, James Carpenter has the reputation of a solid starter over the course of his 8-year NFL career. He has great size at 6’5, 321 coupled with impressive athleticism. While he’s been an above-average pass protector throughout his career, he has tended to struggle as a run blocker. Carpenter has spent the vast majority of his NFL career at LG, and he’s been a full-time starter since 2014. It seems like Carpenter has the early leg up to start opposite Lindstrom—he’s been the early starter at left guard throughout the offseason.
Jamon Brown, 26, entering his 1st season with Atlanta
The second of the two free agents added at guard, Jamon Brown finds himself in an interesting position heading into training camp. At 6’4, 340, Brown has tremendous size and is known for his surprising athleticism. Brown has primarily played right guard during his 4-year NFL career despite being drafted as an OT and playing LT throughout college. He won the starting job in Los Angeles in 2017 but was injured early in 2018, winding up on IR and then waived. The Giants picked him up and he started 8 games last year while looking pretty good as a run blocker, but he still has work to do in pass pro.
The winners are...
It seems like Lindstrom has already been penciled in as the RG, and I’d expect that to hold throughout training camp (as long as he isn’t a total trainwreck). The most interesting battle is at LG, where Carpenter has been the starter early. However, the Falcons have some financial (and age-related) incentive to eventually give the job to Jamon Brown. Brown is only 26 and his deal contains significantly more guaranteed money, whereas Carpenter is 30 and is easy to move on from as early as 2020.
Still, for 2019 it appears that the Falcons will begin the season with Chris Lindstrom at RG and James Carpenter at LG. That would mean that Jamon Brown is relegated to the role of primary interior backup in 2019, but having an experienced starter in that position is certainly not a bad thing. It wouldn’t be shocking if Brown ended up beating out Carpenter at some point—whether that’s by the end of the preseason, or at some point during the season. Quinn seems committed to putting the best five OL on the field, and whether that group includes Carpenter or Brown at LG isn’t a huge deal—at least for the 2019 season.