Falcons’ Kaleb McGary to get tested by Dolphins during practices

Falcons offensive tackle Kaleb McGary (76) runs a drill during training camp practice Monday, Aug. 9, 2021, in Flowery Branch. (John Bazemore/AP)

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Falcons offensive tackle Kaleb McGary (76) runs a drill during training camp practice Monday, Aug. 9, 2021, in Flowery Branch. (John Bazemore/AP)

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons coach Arthur Smith is looking forward to the joint practices with the Dolphins on Wednesday and Thursday.

“I can’t tell how excited that I am about these joint practices,” Smith said. “I appreciate (Miami coach) Brian Flores and the Dolphins for agreeing to do it. It’s really going to help us.”

The Falcons lost their exhibition opener 23-3 to Tennessee on Friday, but 30 players didn’t play.

“There are some things you need to see in (an exhibition) game,” Smith said. “Then really for our whole team, in that kind of environment will be big for us.”

Because of the rain, the Falcons moved indoors and used one field for practice Tuesday before taking an afternoon flight to Miami. The two teams are set to play at 7 p.m. Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

“Normally, when you’ve got two fields, you go offense and defense, but coming inside it will be like the same thing down in Miami. We’ll have to work our individual (sessions) when you split the field up offense and defense,” Smith said.

The two-hour indoor practice went smoothly, with only cornerback Kendall Sheffield (undisclosed injury) and Marlon Davidson (knee) not participating.

“We would have gone outside if it hadn’t gotten too bad,” Smith said. “Brian Boigner, our equipment manager has gotten soft in his old age, so he was worried about all of the equipment, packing it up and everything being all wet. But it was good work. Obviously, when it’s really bad weather, we’ll come inside.”

The Miami practices will be important for the Falcons’ revamped offensive line. The Falcons have tried to improve the line via the draft. Over the past three drafts, they’ve selected five offensive linemen in the first four rounds of the draft, a total matched by only the Vikings and Dolphins.

The group consists of guard Chris Lindstrom (first round, 2019), tackle Kaleb McGary (first round, 2019), center Matt Hennessy (third round, 2020), tackle/guard Jalen Mayfield (third round, 2021) and center Drew Dalman (fourth round, 2021).

McGary was activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list Aug. 9.

Since he was drafted in 2019, McGary has started 29 of 30 games played. He’s had a week to get back into shape and took most of the snaps with the first-team offense while wearing a bulky brace on his left leg Monday.

“Obviously, he was rehabbing (over) the offseason,” Smith said. “He’s a little farther behind than the other guys, so we have to be smart with how we bring him along. That’s why you saw his work load last week. It should increase this week.”

McGary, who did not play in the exhibition opener against Tennessee, didn’t wear the brace Tuesday, but had a protective sleeve on his left leg.

“He’s coming along,” Smith said. “He’s doing everything that we are asking him to do. He’s done a nice job with what we’ve thrown at him. This will be a nice test for him down in Miami.”

Matchups between McGary and Miami’s Emmanuel Ogbah (nine sacks) and/or Jerome Baker (seven sacks) will be heavily evaluated.

The Falcons also want to see how tackle Jason Spriggs, a former second-round pick with the Packers in 2016, performs. While rookie Jalen Mayfield will get some work at left guard.

“Depending on how it’s going, (Mayfield) may have to swing back out to right (tackle), but that’s why we worked him there to protect ourselves and we can kind of mix and match,” Smith said.

The Falcons need to stabilize the right tackle position. Mayfield and Willie Beavers took most of the snaps when McGary was out. It’s time for the new staff to see what McGary and Spriggs can do.

Last season’s swing tackle Matt Gono remains on the PUP list. He was seen wearing a neck brace early in training camp.

McGary, who’s set to enter his third season, cut his sacks allowed from 13.5 to 1.5 last season, but he still struggled overall. He had a 58.2 (F) grade overall, according to Pro Football Focus.

McGary also must cut down on missing his blocks. His blown-block rate was fourth highest among right tackles, according to Football Outsiders.

“Like all of our players, we want to get the best of him,” Smith said. “All of these guys want to improve. We want them to be the best versions of themselves. That’s all that we can ask of them. I don’t want to put any kind of label that he needs to do this and that. We just need him to be the best Kaleb McGary that he can.”

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