During the 2019 offseason, the Atlanta Falcons were faced with some critical decisions in regards to the future of the team. The Falcons had just finished 7-9 after making the playoffs in the previous two seasons. A few things were clear. The team still needed a pass rush and quarterback Matt Ryan was being sacked far too many times, 42 times to be exact which was the most since 2013.
The Falcons made a bold move in the 2019 NFL Draft in using two first round selections on offensive linemen, guard Chris Lindstrom and tackle Kaleb McGary. Lindstrom was regarded as the top offensive guard in the draft coming out of Boston College, which had a run-heavy offense which had a lot of play-action and non-traditional pass plays. He was a true pass protector, and the Falcons thought enough of him to select him higher than anticipated at #14.
Lindstrom didn’t dominate out of the gate, as he suffered a broken foot in his first NFL game and was placed on injured reserve. He would end up returning from the injury in early December, where he got a few games under his belt prior to season’s end. Ryan was sacked a career-high 48 times in 2019, and the there wasn’t a lot of optimism about the offensive line.
Enter 2020, Lindstrom has an abnormal offseason as he, and the rest of the team, navigate the COVID-19 pandemic as they prepare for the upcoming season. In July, Lindstrom worked out with former Falcons right guard Kynan Forney who, through his F65 Performance training outside of Atlanta, has worked with current NFL players such as Andrew Thomas of the New York Giants and several up-and-coming offensive lineman to perfect their craft and work on technique.
“You know, that right guard spot is near and dear to my heart,” Forney told The Falcoholic. “I told Chris that whatever I can do to get him to that all-star game, I’ll do it. Lindstrom’s very strong, very solid in his technique and a very humble kid. He’s very willing to learn. He’s very willing to take direction and take coaching. He loves to grind, let’s just say that. Also, he didn’t get tired at all during the workout. He was ready for his reps, he was working both left and right sides. I like to do both sides just in case, you never know what can happen. I was just trying to show him a few tricks to help him progress.”
Forney was impressed and it personally gave me some optimism on seeing what Lindstrom could do while entering the regular season healthy. Flash-forward to week 16 of the season and Lindstrom is one of the best right guards in the NFL. He’s not only started every game for the Falcons and recorded an incredible 1,066 snaps – the second most snaps in the league at right guard this season.
Of right guards who have started at least 12 games, Lindstrom ranks 3rd according to Pro Football Focus. The two right guards listed ahead of him are Shaq Mason of the New England Patriots and Brandon Scherff of the Washington Football Team, who have both played three fewer games than Lindstrom. His offensive grade of 75.2 ranks him as the 9th overall offensive guard in the league. Only one penalty on 1,066 snaps also shows the discipline he plays with.
Although the 2020 season is one of the worst in recent years for the Falcons, there are some silver linings for fans to look at, and Lindstrom is definitely one of them. As this terrible season draws near a close, it’s important to focus on the positives heading into an offseason which should be unlike one we’ve witnessed in quite some time. You could argue all day that he was a Pro Bowl snub, and I couldn’t agree more. What truly matters at the end of the day is the Falcons seem to have found their next great right guard who, at the current level he’s playing at, should be a starter for them for the next decade or more.