Falcons’ HC Arthur Smith Speaks on Kaleb McGary’s Growth

Falcons

Getty Kaleb McGary of the Atlanta Falcons.

Atlanta Falcons offensive tackle Kaleb McGary has a lot to prove this season if he wants a future with the franchise that drafted him.

The Falcons decided not to exercise McGary’s fifth-year option in 2022, which means he will become a free agent at the end of the season.

However, it sounds like he’s on a mission to show that he’s worth a new deal.

“He’s having a solid camp,” Falcons’ head coach Arthur Smith told reporters on Saturday, August 20 (via the team’s official website). “I’m proud of Kaleb. He’s come a long way… I think he’s playing really good football right now.”

Smith isn’t the only coach who is high on McGary’s growth.

Falcons’ offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford echoed what Smith had to say.

“I know this is only my second camp with him, but it’s the best camp I know I’ve seen from him,” Ledford said. “I know other people have said that as well.”

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McGary Hit the Gym, A Lot, Over the Offseason

The Falcons initially drafted McGary in the first round, 31st overall, in the 2019 NFL Draft.

In the last two years, he has made 29 starts, but his overall production has decreased, giving the Falcons a reason to decline his fifth-year option.

In 2020, he finished with an overall PFF grade of 64.3 and allowed four sacks. His PFF grade fell to 62.8 in 2021, allowing nine of 40 sacks on Ryan.

Of course, McGary will have a chance to prove himself this season, which could lead to a new deal and by the looks of his transformation, he’s taking things a bit more seriously:

“I’m a little heavier but I’m also a little leaner than I have been,” McGary said. “And that has been good for me. Right now, I’m moving better than I have. I’m feeling better than I have. It has been a good year so far. I feel like I have just grown in a lot of good areas, physically and mentally.”


McGary Has Some Competition to Beat Out

Things won’t come easy for McGary after the Falcons added some competition for him in free agency by signing tackle Germain Ifedi and drafting Georgia offensive lineman Justin Shaffer.

Ifedi, 27, was originally selected in the first round (31st overall) by the Seattle Seahawks in 2016 where he spent three seasons before heading to Chicago to play for the Bears. He started 23 of his 25 games during his time with the Bears, spending time at guard in 2020 before being moved to right tackle last fall, however, his 2021 season was cut short due to a knee injury in Week 5.

As for Shaffer, the Falcons drafted him in the fifth round (No. 190 overall) in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Shaffer played five seasons (2017-21) at Georgia where he appeared in 51 games with 27 starts. for the Dawgs. In 2021, the 6-foot-4, 314-pound offensive lineman started all 15 games at left guard for a national championship offense that averaged 190.9 rushing yards a game and earned himself second-team All-SEC honors.

Shaffer is a solid addition to a Falcons’ weak offensive line––especially at left guard––which allowed Matt Ryan to get sacked 40 times last season.

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