After a 2018 season in which Matt Ryan was hit and sacked at one of the highest rates in his career, the front office decided they had to address the offensive line with gusto going into 2019. Many fans thought the team was done when they signed free agents James Carpenter and Jamon Brown. Many of us were stunned when they drafted G Chris Lindstrom in the middle of the first round and even more stunned when they grabbed tackle Kaleb McGary by trading back into the first.
Mission accomplished. Now we need to see if those moves will actually pay off.
Last year, the only two guys on the offensive line worth a damn were left tackle Jake Matthews and center Alex Mack. Every other starter in 2018 has either retired or been jettisoned. That leaves three big holes on the OL that need to be filled.
Rookie Chris Lindstrom appears to have right guard locked down already and he has looked the part so far in camp. On Saturday the 27th, Lindstrom looked comfortable out there with the 1s and regularly stood up pass rushers and held his own, though it’s still just half speed. In one on one drills, Lindstrom was rarely beat and looks stout enough to face up against guys like Grady Jarrett. That’s a good sign in a division where he’ll face Gerald McCoy and Kawaan Short twice a year.
Left guard is still a rotation between James Carpenter and Jamon Brown. Carpenter appeared to get more snaps with the 1s on Saturday, but this is likely going to be a competition until the end of the preseason. I will say this: both of these men are enormous. Carpenter seems to be pretty agile for his size, which could give him an edge in the competition.
Right tackle is interesting. So far, Ty Sambrailo has been getting all of the snaps with the 1s while Kaleb McGary is stuck with the 2s. On Saturday, Sambrailo was regularly getting beat by guys like Vic Beasley and John Cominsky in one-on-ones. Sambrailo was solid down the stretch last year, but it’s clear the team will eventually want McGary to take that spot back. Dan Quinn specifically said that McGary is “pushing Sambrailo” though he didn’t indicate if he’d get any run with the first team any time soon.
It’s also likely that the coaches are hesitant to put two rookie linemen on the field at the same time. That’s only exacerbated by the fact that they would be next to each other. They may feel that Sambrailo’s veteran presence is more important right now. That said, it’s clear the team wants McGary to emerge and it may just be a matter of time.
As Jeanna and I were watching McGary run the 11-on-11 drills with the 2s, Wes Durham came by and asked us who we would start if the season were right now. All three of us seemed to agree it would be McGary. As Durham put it, “this guy isn’t looking for a fight, he’s going to start one.” Jeanna aptly compared McGary to Harvey Dahl, a comparison Durham particularly liked. The competition at right tackle is definitely one to watch in the coming weeks. It’s far from over.
For a unit that was banged up and ineffective for large stretches in 2018, the start of training camp has looked promising. There’s still a lot to be figured out, but the fact that there are several good options is a much better position to be in.