Atlanta Falcons 90-man roster analysis: Offensive line

January 30, 2017, Houston: Falcons guard Ben Garland flashes a Super Bowl towel as he takes the stage for Super Bowl Opening Night on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Curtis Compton/

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

January 30, 2017, Houston: Falcons guard Ben Garland flashes a Super Bowl towel as he takes the stage for Super Bowl Opening Night on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Curtis Compton/

This is the fifth of a 10-part, position-by-position series analyzing the Falcons’ roster after their offseason program. Coming Monday: Defensive linemen. When the Falcons report for training camp on July 26, Ben Garland and Wes Schweitzer will battle for the vacant starting right guard position.

Over all 19 games last season, the Falcons started the same offensive line.

With the retirement of right guard Chris Chester, there will be a new starter in 2017.

Center Alex Mack looks forward to having a new neighbor on the offensive line.

Mack, who was named second-team All-Pro, worked in unison with Chester on combination blocks in the run game and pass protection as the Falcons won the NFC title and reached this year’s Super Bowl.

After the draft and signing undrafted rookie free agents, the Falcons have 16 offensive linemen on the roster.

Excluding Mack and left guard Andy Levitre, theoretically there are eight other interior linemen to compete for the right guard opening.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said that Wes Schweitzer and Ben Garland are top contenders. The Falcons drafted Sean Harlow in the fourth round.

The backup interior linemen must be able to play center, left guard and right guard.

“We’ve got a lot of good players,” Mack said. “It’s going to be an interesting decision. This will be a question asked many more times, who’s going to be the guard? But we have a lot of other good players. It will be interesting decision.”

Last season, Chester won a battle over Schweitzer, who was selected in the seventh-round of the 2016 draft. Garland played on offense and defense last season.

Mack expects the battle, which will be under the direction of offensive line coach Chris Morgan, to rage well into training camp.

“We have a lot of guys who work really hard,” Mack said. “In OTAs, we’ll get a lot of reps in there. In training camp, we’ll start to narrow it down.”

Schweitzer is considered the early favorite.

“He’s a big powerful guy,” Mack said. “He’s been hitting it pretty hard in the weight room. He’s done a real good job of working hard every day. Great attitude. Smart player. I think his big strides will (come after) getting some reps in there and how he can process things at a full tempo. How well he can really narrow down his technique.”

Schweitzer tried to make the switch from college left tackle to guard last season.

Falcons right guard Wes Schweitzer discusses his battle with Ben Garland to win the starting position vacated by the retirement of Chris Chester. Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter

“He was right there battling for it,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “We’re excited about where Wes is headed.”

The Falcons started three rookies last season on defense and have not been afraid to get their young talent on the field. Harlow, who’s father, Pat, was the 11th pick in the 1991 draft, by New England, will get a good look, too.

“He’s a guy who’s very, very smart,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “He’s a guy who understands the game, similar to Jake (Matthews). That’s a big thing for him. He’s a really highly competitive and toughness guy.”

Morgan liked how the linemen worked over the offseason.

“It was really good,” Morgan said. “The guys all came back with an unbelievable mindset. They were really going after it. Everybody is focused. The competition is really cool.”

Mack believes the line will have to work on its continuity once the new right guard is named.

“It’s not common (to have the same starters all season),” Mack said. “Having consistency in the (offensive) line helps you be successful week in and week out. We have a lot of different guys rotate in each week, but when you can keep the same guys in there you can always build week to week because no one is ever playing catch up and trying to understand the blocks together.

“We work so in tandem and in unison with each other, those blocks are really a lot of work that we do in practice, getting our combo blocks together. … Having every week with the same guys. … You really learn the player that you’re next to.”

Mack ranked as one of the top three centers in the NFL in 2016, according to ratings from Pro Football Focus.

Mack, who the Falcons signed to a five-year, $45 million deal as a free agent last winter, was one of the biggest keys to the team’s resurgence in the running game, going from 19th in rushing yards per game in 2015 to 5th last year.

Mack also helped the Falcons be Pro Football Focus’s sixth-ranked overall offensive line in the NFL last season, grading out as the team’s best run blocker and overall offensive lineman.

Right tackle Ryan Schraeder was rewarded with a five-year $32 million contract extension last season. Matthews, who was selected sixth overall in 2014, is set to enter the final year of his four-year contract. The club picked up his fifth-year option.

The team must find a backup swing tackle to replace veteran Tom Compton, who signed with the Chicago Bears in free agency.

Here’s a look at the projected depth chart heading into training camp:


LT 70 Jake Matthews, 66 Kevin Graf, 79 Will Freeman

LG 67 Andy Levitre, 64 Sean Harlow, 72 Cornelius Edison, 69 Marquis Lucas

C 51 Alex Mack, 63 Ben Garland, 61 Travis Averill, 62 Cam Keizur

RG [71 Wes Schweitzer, 63 Ben Garland], 68 Trevor Robinson

RT 73 Ryan Schraeder, 76 Daniel Brunskill, 75 Andreas Knappe

WR 12 Mohamed Sanu, 18 Taylor Gabriel, 13 Devin Fuller, 15 Nick Williams, 16 Anthony Dable, 87 Deante Burton, 7 Josh Magee

FB 40 Derrick Coleman, 39 Tyler Renew


DE 99 Adrian Clayborn, 98 Takkarist McKinley, 96 Martin Ifedi

DT 92 Dontari Poe, 77 Ra’Shede Hageman, 92 Joe Vellano

DT 97 Grady Jarrett, 91 Courtney Upshaw, 74 Taniela Tupou

DE 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 95 Jack Crawford, 90 Derrick Shelby, 93 Chris Odom

SLB 59 DeVondre Campbell, 44 Vic Beasley Jr., 50 Brooks Reed, Jack Lynn

LB 45 Deion Jones, 53 LaRoy Reynolds, 52 Josh Keyes

WLB 36 Kemal Ishmael, 42 Duke Riley, 56 Jermaine Grace, 55 J’Terius Jones

CB 23 Robert Alford, 29 C.J. Goodwin, 25 Akeem King, 39 Janor Jones, 38 Taylor Reynolds

NB 34 Brian Poole, 33 Blidi-Wreh-Wilson, 27 Damontae Kazee

CB 21 Desmond Trufant, 32 Jalen Collins, 30 Deji Olatoye, 41 Quincy Mauger

S 37 Ricardo Allen, 20 Sharrod Neasman, 35 Marcelis Branch

S 22 Keanu Neal, 36 Kemal Ishmael, 48 Jordan Moore, 49 Deron Washington


K 3 Matt Bryant, 6 Mike Meyer

KO 5 Matt Bosher

P 5 Matt Bosher

KR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 13 Devin Fuller, 38 Brian Hill

PR 19 Andre Roberts, 14 Justin Hardy, 13 Devin Fuller, 18 Taylor Gabriel

LS 47 Josh Harris

H 5 Matt Bosher