Wes Schweitzer, a former sixth-round draft pick in 2016, was named the starting right guard on Monday by Falcons head coach Dan Quinn.
Schweitzer, who was inactive for all 19 games last season, beat out Ben Garland for the spot. The Falcons had a vacancy after Chris Chester, the previous starter, elected to retire over the offseason.
“These guys have really battled and we respect them a tremendous amount,” Quinn said. “Wes Schweitzer will be the right guard. It was so close as we went through the whole thing.”
Quin was asked what was the deciding factor in the decision to go with Schweitzer.
“More consistency at times,” Quinn said. “If you went just solely on the games, really you could battle it for either way. It was as close of a battle at a position that I’ve seen.”
Schweitzer was elated by the news.
“Two year ago, I wasn’t even sure if I’d play in the NFL,” Schweitzer said. “It’s been a long journey, but nothing is given to you and you have to work hard every day.”
Schweitzer will play between center Alex Mack and right tackle Ryan Schraeder.
“It’s a great veteran group,” Schweitzer said. “I already feel like I’m included.”
Schweitzer believes that he Garland helped him land the position.
“He definitely made me a better player,” Schweitzer said. “He definitely push me every day. He’s a great competitor. He’s really a tough person in general. But I appreciated him being there to help me.”
Schraeder is looking forward to work with Schweitzer.
“Either one of those guys, I would have felt great with,” Schraeder said. “They battled it out. Wes got the nod and it’s exciting for him.
The Falcons rotated Schweitzer and Garland starting back through the OTAs, minicamp and through the exhibition season. Garland started the opening exhibition game against Miami and Schweitzer started the second game against Pittsburgh.
Schweitzer seem to pull away and take control of the position over the third and fourth exhibition games.
“He’s worked hard,” Schraeder said. “He’s busted his butt. This whole offseason, I think he’s basically lived up here in the facility. It’s good to have a guy like that playing next to you that really cares, is a 100 percent brought in and is going after everything.”
Schweitzer said he didn’t get discouraged last season when he was basically just practicing. He was also working on making the conversion from a collegiate tackle to an NFL guard.
“Plan D is a big thing around here,” Schweitzer said. “That’s where you really put the time in to get better.”