Josh Andrews had it all lined up. The veteran had spent years as a reserve for the Eagles, Colts and Jets before starting four games in 2020 for New York. That stint got the Falcons interested, and they signed him this offseason to a one-year deal to compete for the left guard job. With Matt Gono injured, Jalen Mayfield cross-training at right tackle and no other serious competition for the job, Andrews was the starting left guard early in camp and never relinquished the role.
It was okay not to be thrilled by that—it has been a while since the Falcons had an above average starter at left guard, and Andrews didn’t figure to buck that trend—but Andrews earned the role. A broken hand ruined a summer of hard work, though, and Andrews hit injured reserve ahead of the first week of the season. The rest, from Mayfield’s outrageous Week 1 struggles to the improving competence he’s shown now, is history.
Now, Andrews may be ready to return, and especially during the bye week the question of what Atlanta will do with the veteran guard and what role he’ll play is an interesting one.
Falcons HC Arthur Smith said things are trending positively with Russell Gage (ankle) and Marlon Davidson (ankle) and they also have to make a decision on Josh Andrews off IR by the end of the week.— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) October 11, 2021
The Falcons have to activate Andrews off of injured reserve by Wednesday if they’re going to do it, thanks to David Walker for reminding me that his 21 day practice window began on a Wednesday. The issue is that Mayfield has settled in a bit at left guard, and if he’s hardly the most impressive offensive lineman on the roster, it behooves the team to take a long look at him and see if he can stick at the starting job. If Andrews is activated, it seems likely he’ll start out as a reserve, and the team will have to cut Drew Dalman (unlikely), cut Colby Gossett (who could hit the practice squad), or trim at another position and carry an extra offensive lineman while he gets back up to speed. Andrews has played center and guard in the past, so the team is likely to view him as a versatile reserve at worst.
Because they viewed him as at least a stopgap starting lineman in the not-too-distant past and because the depth on the interior is still a major question mark, I have to imagine Andrews is activated unless he’s simply not healthy enough. The Falcons may try to sneak Gossett through to the practice squad or make a cut elsewhere—Dorian Etheridge and John Cominsky are the only candidates that spring readily to mind—but they won’t have trouble slotting Andrews in.
Andrews seems unlikely to step into a starting role again unless Mayfield scuffles mightily for multiple weeks, given the team’s obvious incentive to let a player they drafted and have under contract for four seasons to settle in as a long-term starter. Expect him to be the team’s emergency option at left guard if Mayfield falters, but otherwise he’ll just be ready to step in if an injury crops up in the middle of the offensive line. It’s not quite what his summer suggested, but I’m sure Andrews will be glad to be back on the roster.