Falcons guard Jalen Mayfield dealing with lower-back issue

Falcons guard Justin Shaffer (75) does a drill with guard Jalen Mayfield (77) during training camp at the Falcons Practice Facility, Friday, July 29, 2022, in Flowery Branch, Ga. Also pictured is offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Falcons guard Justin Shaffer (75) does a drill with guard Jalen Mayfield (77) during training camp at the Falcons Practice Facility, Friday, July 29, 2022, in Flowery Branch, Ga. Also pictured is offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Falcons left guard Jalen Mayfield missed practice Friday with a lower-back issue, coach Arthur Smith said. The team said he’ll be re-evaluated next week.

“He’s a tough, tough kid,” Smith said. “He’s been running out there. We’ll see where that goes. Trying to calm it down and we’ll see what he looks like hopefully next week.”

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Mayfield, a third-round selection out of Michigan in 2021, struggled throughout his rookie season. Pro Football Focus graded him 79th of 84 guards, largely because of poor pass blocking. That’s led to a competition in camp for the starting left guard spot, with Elijah Wilkinson and rookie Justin Shaffer pushing Mayfield.

An extended absence obviously would put Mayfield’s starting spot in jeopardy, though it was already. Wilkinson has impressed in camp and might be the favorite to start the season-opening game Sept. 11, when the Falcons host the Saints. The Falcons are remaking an offensive line that failed former quarterback Matt Ryan during the waning years of his tenure.

In other injury news, defensive tackle Anthony Rush and running back Damien Williams returned to practice Friday after being absent Wednesday with issues the team deemed minor. The Falcons have been excited about Rush, a signee from November. Williams is the elder statesman of the running back group as a third-down back.

Generally speaking, the Falcons have been in a good spot health-wise. The Hall of Fame game officially kicked off the exhibition season Thursday, but even before the games began, there have been serious injuries in camps. The Buccaneers lost center Ryan Jensen (knee), a culture setter on their offensive line, for significant time, if not the season. The Broncos lost receiver Tim Patrick, who was expected to be a top target for new quarterback Russell Wilson, to an ACL tear.

While the Falcons haven’t lost a significant contributor, defensive tackle Vincent Taylor suffered a ruptured Achilles that ended his season. It was a brutal blow for Taylor, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 1 last season with the Texans. He signed a one-year deal with the Falcons in April.

Inside linebacker Deion Jones has been on the physically-unable-to-perform list, but he’s expected back before the season begins (unless the team trades him). Cornerback Isaiah Oliver, whom the team re-signed in the offseason, and fullback Keith Smith are working their way back from knee surgeries. The Falcons consider themselves “in pretty good shape” regarding health, Arthur Smith said this week (before Mayfield was sidelined).

The Falcons begin the exhibition season Aug. 12 in Detroit.