In the playoffs last season, Ben Garland started at left guard and Wes Schweizter at right guard.
After the bye week, the Falcons are preparing to move forward with Schweitzer at left guard and Garland at right guard. Garland is taking over for Brandon Fusco, who suffered a broken ankle in the 23-20 win over the Giants prior to last week’s bye and was placed on injured reserve.
“I’m confident playing right, left and including center, tight end or fullback,” Garland said before practice on Monday. “Put me anywhere, I’m ready to go.”
Schweitzer beat out Garland for the starting right guard spot last season. Garland went in for Andy Levitre, when suffered a torn pectoral injury after 13 starts last season.
Fusco was signed in free agency and beat our Schweitzer, while Garland was battling through an hamstring injury this season. Levitre suffered an arm injury and was lost for the season after the second game. Schweitzer took over at left guard.
But there are no plans to flip the guards to where they played last season.
“We are able to,” Garland said. “We can flip it if we want to. We can change it to where the coach wants to put us.”
Garland said his hamstring is no longer a factor.
“It’s always tough dealing with injuries,” Garland said. “We have a great staff here. I’m fully ready to go and 100 percent.”
The revamped offensive line will be charged with improving the rushing attack. The Falcons are averaging 83.3 yards per game, which ranks 30th in the league.
“I think it’s one of those things of getting all 11 (players) in sync,” Garland said. “We have a lot of talent on this team. Once we get it all in sync, we’ll improve the run game.”
Falcons coach Dan Quinn is hoping that the rushing attack can get rolling behind the revamped offensive line.
“We’ve all nailed in terms of the run game and how it gives balance and more touches to two of our more explosive play makers in (Tevin Coleman) and Ito (Smith), who’s coming into his own in that way as well,” Quinn said.
Over the bye week, the Falcons also added some veteran depth along the offensive line. They re-signed tackle Austin Pasztor, who was with the team in 2017, and signed guard Rees Odhiambo, who was on the Colts’ practice squad.
In addition to putting Fusco on injured reserve, the team released guard Zac Kerin.
Pasztor saw action in seven games last season. Pasztor, who played in college at Virginia, originally signed with the Vikings in 2012. He’s also played with the Jaguars and the Browns. The 27-year old is listed at 6-foot-7 and 305 pounds and has played in 63 NFL games, including 43 starts. He’s played both guard and tackle.
“With Pasztor you have a sense of where he’s at, he’s a swing tackle and plays both right and left,” Quinn said.
Odhiambo, who is 6-4 and 315 pounds, was selected out of Boise State in the third round of the 2016 draft Seattle. He played in 15 games and made seven starts at left tackle for the Seahawks.
Odhiambo, 26, was waived by Seattle on Sept. 2 and signed by the Colts to their practice squad Sept. 24.
“We are going to put him at guard,” Quinn said. “That’s really where we’ll park him and leave him there for a while at both left and right guard. We have him playing left guard right now.”
The Falcons wanted to add players who had NFL experience to the key backup positions.
“I thought with their background and even some familiarity in Rees’ case within the system in terms of what we want to do and some of the calls being similar,” Quinn said. “It was a good first day for him. He’s got some excellent mentors that will kind of help him through the first steps of on-boarding him into a new spot. We’re off to a good start.”
Pasztor was back home in Virginia working out before the Falcons called.
“I was doing everything I could to stay in shape and work on my skills,” Pasztor said. “It was very exciting getting the phone call to come back to this team. I was very familiar with the players, staff and culture. I was very excited to come back.”
Pasztor said he’s ready to play guard if the Falcons need him there.
“I’m just going to come in and try to help the team out,” Pasztor said. “I played some guard in my career. I think I have eight starts at guard. I’ve played a little bit of guard in my career. I think in the end, its always helpful to have versatility. It increases your value as a player.”
Odhiambo found out he was claimed by the Falcons by text message from a friend.
“Somebody broke the news to me, one of my friends, before I even had any clue what was going on,” Odhiambo said. “They texted me. After that, I was really excited.”
It was a sudden change situation for Odhiambo.
“One day, you’re shopping for groceries and getting ready for the week and then the next day, you’re out,” he said.