Monday, the Falcons began their first 2019 regular season practice and showed their hand a bit about where the offensive line might wind up.
The Athletic’s Jason Butt got a look at first-team individual drills and saw who was lined up where.
Repping with the first group at the LG in individual drills is James Carpenter. Matt Gono is getting the first, and early, look at RT.— Jason Butt (@JasonHButt) September 2, 2019
This could portend two major things for the offensive line: James Carpenter has won the left guard battle with Jamon Brown, and the team is going to lean on Matt Gono at right tackle until Kaleb McGary is healthy and conditioned enough to play.
Signing both Carpenter and Brown wasn’t all that great a thing in retrospect with this having gone the way it has, with the latter now one of the most expensive reserve players around. He could always be traded to a team in need, but for now, Atlanta is just going to be hyper-prepared should injury strike either guard spot. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing overall.
Carpenter had some injury woes in preseason, but that looks to be resolved now. He’s a sound option at left guard, and he could be, perhaps, as good as Andy Levitre was there in his time as a starter, though matching Levitre at his best is probably expecting too much. Brown has the upside, but Carpenter has the experience. It looks like that won out in the end.
Gono starting is reassuring for one glaring reason; Ty Sambrailo’s preseason reps. He just looks to inconsistent and streaky to hold down the right tackle spot past a few starts here and there. Gono, though not perfect, has flashed more potential and might just be a better player than Sambrailo is at the position.
His development has been mentioned many times by Dan Quinn as a positive, and it sounds like, at least in early practice reps, the Falcons are going to reward him for his efforts. You feel better about Gono holding down the fort until McGary gets back than you do about Sambrailo. Having all three just in case is another luxury.
McGary’s return is still up in the air, too, so Gono could get a few starts there before it’s all said and done. It’d be a minor miracle if McGary is ready to go Sunday, and we should be prepared for the team to ease him back in to that role, as to avoid any further complications.
ESPN’s Vaughn McClure later reported McGary, Gono and Sambrailo all got reps, but just the fact that Gono went first is almost telling enough.
The offensive line looks a lot better on paper than it did a year ago, or even in March after free agency ended. The team has undeniable talent; they’ve just to see it all click and grow.
We’re looking forward to seeing what Carpenter and Gono can do, since it looks like they’ll be probably starting against the Vikings when the season opens Sunday.