Atlanta didn’t do much along their offensive line this offseason, to put it mildly, but we’ve been waiting a while to find out what the plans are for the additions they did bring aboard. The Falcons brought Germain Ifedi on to compete with Kaleb McGary for right tackle, and thus far that’s been exactly what’s happened. They also added guard Justin Shaffer in the draft, and he’s lining up to be a reserve in his rookie season as anticipated.
Elijah Wilkinson was a little bit more of a mystery. Primarily a right tackle and right guard in the pros, Wilkinson didn’t seem to be a serious contender for the right tackle competition. That likely meant he was either going to push Jalen Mayfield at left guard—a position he hasn’t really played in the pros—or serve as a versatile reserve at guard and tackle.
Per our ace reporter Kevin Knight, who is in Flowery Branch for camp this week, Wilkinson is factoring in to the competition at left guard.
#Falcons 1st team OL on Day 2:— Kevin Knight (@FalcoholicKevin) July 28, 2022
LT Jake Matthews
LG Elijah Wilkinson
C Matt Hennessy
RG Chris Lindstrom
RT Kaleb McGary
So some rotation at LG and C.
I’ve been theorizing that this was the plan for a couple of months now, given that otherwise Mayfield wouldn’t seem to have any serious competition after a brutal year. Wilkinson has had a decidedly mixed career to this point, but was solid back in 2018 as a part-time starter at right guard. The Falcons got a look at him in organized team activities and minicamp and apparently decided he can translate that work to left guard at a high enough level to at least push Mayfield for the role, and I’d expect the two to rotate snaps in practices and preseason games the rest of the way so long as Wilkinson looks good in his reps.
I still expect Mayfield to win this battle—barring a free agent addition, of course—but Wilkinson’s move to left guard plus his experience at right guard and right tackle should give him a major leg up on a roster spot as a versatile reserve. Left guard will be a spot worth watching in the coming weeks, regardless of how it shakes out.