Falcons’ Drew Dalman embracing growth as starter

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons center Drew Dalman isn’t focused on any factor other than wins to describe his performance on the field. Otherwise, he just wants to continue to get better each day.

After winning a long battle with Matt Hennessy for the starting center position, Dalman has started all 10 games for the Falcons this season.

“I’ve definitely made plenty of mistakes -- plenty of opportunities to learn -- and I’ve been progressing in some important ways,” Dalman said. “Definitely plenty of room to learn, but I feel like I’ve been steadily creeping along as the games go by.”

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Comfort is one of the main points of growth for the second-year pro in 2022. He may have been the starter in spurts last season, along with Hennessy, but that’s not the same as starting every game in a 17-game season.

“Just comfort in the game, as far as like making myself slow down and see the whole picture, so we can make better plays and be in better positions on offense,” Dalman said of his biggest area of growth this year.

Even so, he still wants to get more comfortable as the Falcons journey through the second half of the season. What’s more, he wants to improve some of the skill-based techniques on the field, so he can be more impactful in that regard, too.

“I have plenty of room to grow in pass protection and in the run game with a few specific things,” Dalman said. “So, I’ll be working on those and measure myself against that.”

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As the starter, Dalman has contributed to an offensive line that has opened holes for the second-most rushing yards in the NFL.

“Nothing fancy, it’s just stuff we’ve been working on since Day 1,” Dalman said on what fuels the Falcons’ rushing attack. “We just got a bunch of guys that are great coaches that are putting us in the right spot. Playing hard and figuring it out. We still obviously made plenty of mistakes, and it could be better, so we’re still going towards what we really want.”

What the Falcons really want is to finish the regular season strong and secure a spot in the playoffs. They’re currently 4-6 and in second place in the NFC South heading into their home matchup against the 3-7 Bears at 1 p.m. Sunday.

“Just being the team we know we can be, try to get some wins and try to get to the postseason and make a run,” Dalman said, referring to what he’s most excited for in the final slate of games. “That’s really our main focus, just winning games. That’s what I’m looking forward to the most.”

Coach Arthur Smith has been comforted by the luxury of having two starter-caliber centers on his roster in Dalman and Hennessy, though he has stuck with his decision to start Dalman.

But, Dalman will no longer have Hennessy to back him up, as Hennessy went down with a knee injury in the Falcons’ loss to the Chargers on Nov. 6 and is now on injured reserve. Center Ryan Neuzil, on the practice squad, now serves as the backup while Hennessy is out.