Falcons center/guard James Stone had a rough outing against Miami. And he wasn’t alone.
“That was not a game that I’m proud of,” Stone said on Monday.
Stone, who started at left guard, did not match up well with Dolphins’ tackle Earl Mitchell. But he wasn’t the only member along the line who didn’t block well. The unit gave up six sacks and eight quarterback hits.
“We definitely have to play better than we did the other night,” offensive line coach Chris Morgan said. “We know that. The guys did a great job of coming back out here to work today. It was cool to see, but, yeah, we all know that we have to play better than we did the other night.”
The Falcons, who are installing the outside-zone rushing attack, have continuously juggled linemen throughout the exhibition season. While the tackles are set, the team is still looking at the center and guard positions.
Mike Person started for center Joe Hawley, who’s still recovering from knee surgery. Former starter Jon Asamoah is playing behind Chris Chester at right guard.
The experimentation will continue when the Falcons play the Ravens in their final exhibition season matchup on Thursday.
“That’s one of the main themes of our program,” Morgan said. “We’re going to compete. We definitely have some guys still to look at. It’s going to be cool to see them go this week. We have to find that formula, find that right group.”
After injuries to Hawley and Peter Konz last season, Stone, who made the team as an undrafted rookie from Tennessee, took over and started nine games at center. Stone had never played left guard until this preseason.
“Practice is where you get better at,” Stone said. “We watched the tape to see what we need to address, then we came out here to practice. We just have to work hard and get back on track.”
His transition to guard has been bumpy.
“I wouldn’t think of it as being tough,” Stone said. “It’s good for everybody because you have to be ready to play wherever. It’s good for guys to get some work at different spots.”
With two week left before the season opens, the team is still mixing and matching up front.
“We’re still right in the middle of that competition,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “As soon as we get the connection right with the five guys that we are going to line up and play … we are still battling for it. Some things have been ironed out.”
The Falcons are high on Person because can also play center and guard.
“He can really come off the ball,” Quinn said. “He’s got that versatility at center and guard. Then, what are the best combinations that go with that? But we’ve been impressed by Mike with his ability to play both spots and his toughness in the run game.”
Hawley is still dealing with the recovery from his knee injury.
“I think that’s got something to do with it,” Hawley said about not starting against Miami. “Obviously, I have to improve and show them that I’m able to perform at an optimal level going into the regular season and that they feel comfortable with me in front of (quarterback) Matt (Ryan).”
The coaches may also want to make sure that have tested backups.
“I think they just wanted to see what other guys could do,” Hawley said. “They want to make sure that they have a backup plan if I’m not able to go.”
Hawley said he’s ready.
“I should be able to go,” he said. “I’m feeling pretty good, especially after the last game. I feel like I’ve gotten better each week.”
In practice, Quinn had the first-team defense going against the first-team offensive line.
“We have to keep digging,” Quinn said.
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