The Atlanta Falcons were incredibly reliant on the health of starting center Alex Mack after signing him in the 2016 offseason, and that hasn’t changed four years later.
If the Falcons don’t draft a guard/center this upcoming weekend, they will likely go into the 2020 season with Justin McCray and Sean Harlow manning the backup center role.
Dan Quinn said Justin McCray and Sean Harlow are the backups at center right now. McCray was signed this offseason.— Jason Butt (@JasonHButt) April 20, 2020
The Falcons signed McCray as a versatile depth piece who can play all five positions along the offensive line earlier in the offseason. He’s never played the center position in an NFL game before (but he has had practice at the position) and he was the worst pass blocker on the Cleveland Browns last season according to PFF.
Sean Harlow, meanwhile, was a wasted fourth round pick by the Falcons in the 2017 NFL Draft who has since played one career snap. Harlow was an abject disaster in last year’s preseason (registering a PFF pass blocking grade of 32.5 in 171 pass blocking snaps). He has mostly had a home on Atlanta’s practice squad since being drafted, but the team showed renewed interest in him toward the end of last season.
In other words, the health of Matt Ryan will be directly tied to the health of his starting center if those two are the next men up.
Alex Mack has been durable enough to keep the backup center role unimportant - he has started all 64 games since signing with the Falcons. Mack has actually played in every game of his NFL career outside of the 2014 season, when he fractured his fibula. He famously played in Super Bowl 51 with a broken leg.
Alex Mack isn’t getting any younger, however, as 2020 will be his age-34 season. We’ll have to hope he has at least one more strong season left in him.