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Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary had to take steps forward in 2020, and they have

The team swung for the fences in the first round last year and appears to have at least hit a ground rule double.

NFL: OCT 11 Panthers at Falcons Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Falcons needed to bolster the offensive line. That was the marching order, perhaps directly from Arthur Blank himself, and they busily set about doing so in the 2019 offseason. The only problem was that for 2019, basically nothing went as planned.

Chris Lindstrom got hurt. Kaleb McGary struggled mightily throughout large chunks of the year. James Carpenter was bad and then injured, while Jamon Brown was injured then bad then benched. All the additions the team made didn’t go much of anywhere, which certainly contributed to the lousiness of the year.

But you don’t draft players for just one year, and you don’t sign multi-year deals with players you’re intending to boot after a season, at least not typically. Jamon Brown may be gone, but James Carpenter has done surprisingly well this year. Even better, Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary have largely become the players the Falcons were hoping they’d be when they took both in the first round.

Lindstrom is pulling better grades than McGary, but that’s mostly because McGary has struggled a bit more of late than he did during a dominant early season stretch. Both players are healthy and effective, and thanks to fifth year options the Falcons have them both for at least three seasons after this, should they want to keep both around. For a team that has struggled so much over the years with consistent offensive line play, hitting on two very good linemen in the same draft class feels like Thomas Dimitroff pedaled his bicycle to the moon. It just isn’t something that happens for these Falcons, as glad as we are that it is.

The Falcons still have some outstanding questions along this line next year, prominent among them who is going to play left guard (it could be Carpenter again, but the team is looking to cut costs) and whether Matt Hennessy will be ready to step in and start at center. Having both tackle spots locked down and a right guard who may well be a fixture for the better part of the decade to come is a very solid starting spot for the next regime, and another reminder that as bitterly disappointing as some positions are, the Falcons won’t go into next year bereft of talent.