I think the widespread assumption among The Falcoholic staff is that James Carpenter is the frontrunner for the Falcons left guard job. He’s the most experienced and proven candidate, he won the job a year ago against more or less the same competition minus Justin McCray and Matt Hennessy, and there isn’t a slam dunk elite candidate to beat him out.
That doesn’t mean we want him to win the job. A few of our writers and editors weighed in below on our preferred candidate for the left guard job, and you will sense a theme.
Matt Gono or oh no
James Carpenter didn’t fare well a year ago. Jamon Brown fared a bit better, but wasn’t exactly great. Justin McCray doesn’t have a rich history of quality play at guard to fall back on. Matt Hennessy, as good as he might be, is the future at center and a rookie in a year where a lack of experience is going to be a bigger problem than usual.
Unless you’re a huge Sean Harlow fan, that leaves Matt Gono. The former UDFA has a combination of good size and athleticism, experience in this system, and talent to take the job and run with it at least for 2020, and perhaps well into the future. The Falcons desperately need to save money at key spots on the roster while not relying on so-so veterans, and left guard is one of the most logical places to do that, even if Gono’s contract is up after this year. I like his chances of winning a fair competition for the job, and I like his chances of holding his own as the starting left guard. - Dave Choate
This is Gono be good
I am rooting for Gono because I am Gono wear out this pun. Despite an insane amount of investment in the guard spot, the Falcons have no one who has earned the starting spot. Carpenter and Brown were lucky to not receive the Brandon Fusco treatment primarily because Dimitroff overpaid both players and the Falcons can’t afford to cut either player. Both also dealt with injuries in 2019 and provide little upside at age 27 (Brown) and 31 (Carpenter). When he played at left guard, Gono looked like he should have been starting all last season. With the Falcons, the most likely scenario is the answer was on the roster the entire time but never got a chance. He is Gono be Ryan Schraeder 2.0. - Matt Chambers
Give me Gono, or give me death
Both James Carpenter and Jamon Brown are known commodities at this point. Carpenter is on the wrong side of 30 and Brown was lackluster at best in 2019. While Gono was originally projected to play tackle, the Falcons raved about him as a guard last year before injuries relegated him to the bench. We were then treated to the performances of guys like Carpenter, Brown and eventually Wes Schweitzer (again). It’s time for the team to finally give this guy a real shot, instead of talking him up and casting him into the void. - David Walker
Someone has to win, right?
I’ll be pretty candid as possible with this. It does not really matter to me who prevails. Whether it’s Jamon Brown or James Carpenter or even Matt Gono. Hopefully whoever comes out on top, I’m only wishing for stability and consistency. It’s a position that the Falcons have tried to improve since Andy Levitre was placed on IR in September 2018. Since then, it has been the biggest issue on the offensive line and played a considerable hand in quarterback Matt Ryan getting sacked 48 times last season. As far as skill positions go, the Falcons have enough ammo to put up points and scare opposing defenses. But not having reliability at this particular position can more of an issue than you would think. - Eric Robinson
In an effort to be different, I’ll say Justin McCray
First, let’s just get this out there: Matt Gono is probably the best long-term fit at guard if he shows he can play like an above-average starter. However, Gono also happens to be the current swing tackle for the Falcons—unless you think John Wetzel or UDFA Evin Ksiezarczyk are better options. That makes things complicated should injuries strike at tackle, because now you’re changing two starters on the OL. It also means you need to find a new swing tackle going forward. As I wrote in his player profile, veteran Justin McCray could be a sleeper pick for the LG position. He’s just 28, very affordable, and has played like a solid starter at guard (his 64.9 PFF grade in his last 5 starts at guard was significantly better than Jamon Brown or James Carpenter in 2019). - Kevin Knight