Now that free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft draft are (mostly) behind us, it’s time to take a closer look at the Atlanta Falcons’ roster heading in to the summer. Outside of a few additions and subtractions here and there in the course of training camp and the preseason, this is the roster Atlanta will be working with during the 2022 season.
We’ll kick things off with a look at the projected starters and players competing for those spots. Next up is the offensive line. Arguably the weakest unit on the roster in 2021, the Falcons have left the starting group intact and made very few impact additions. Two signings came at tackle in Germain Ifedi and Elijah Wilkinson, along with a sixth-round rookie guard in Justin Shaffer.
Next up is 2020 third-rounder and incumbent center starter Matt Hennessy.
C Matt Hennessy
Age: 24 (25 during 2022 season)
Contract: $1.293M cap hit in 2022, rookie contract through 2023
Career Production: 30 games played, 19 games started | 1,213 snaps played, 9 penalties, 4 sacks allowed
2021 Production: 17 games played, 17 games started | 988 snaps played, 5 penalties, 3 sacks allowed | 77.1 overall PFF grade
Previous Teams: Drafted in the 3rd Round (78th overall) by the Atlanta Falcons (2020-present)
The Falcons had a void to fill at center in 2021, with longtime starter and former All-Pro Alex Mack considering retirement and eventually moving on to the 49ers. Luckily, the team had already drafted a potential replacement in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft: Matt Hennessy. Hennessy had filled in for a few games at the end of the 2020 season and showed some promise. The new regime added some competition in rookie Drew Dalman, but Hennessy won the battle early in camp and never looked back.
Hennessy’s second season—and first season as a starter—was definitely a mixed bag. He showed flashes of very good run blocking, but the pass protection was a consistent issue. As expected for a young center, Hennessy struggled at times to get the protection calls right against some of the more exotic blitzes he faced. Power and size were more challenging for Hennessy than quickness, and he’ll need to work on improving his strength and anchor for the 2022 season.
The path to the starting job seems pretty clear for Hennessy in 2022, with another competition with Drew Dalman on tap in training camp. Dalman also looked solid as a spot-starter when called upon last season, so the battle could be more fierce than expected. Hennessy’s experience and prowess as a run blocker will likely give him the advantage once again, but he’ll have to improve his pass protection to keep the Falcons from looking for a long-term upgrade next offseason.
Projection: Matt Hennessy enters his third season with a year of starting experience under his belt. He’s the early favorite to reprise his role as the starting center despite what could be a spirited challenge from second-year lineman Drew Dalman. Hennessy provides quality run blocking, but must improve his pass protection to hang on to the job in future years.