The Atlanta Falcons had a handful of competition battles this offseason and the center position was one of them, featuring veteran center Matt Hennessey and second-year center Drew Dalman.
However, who starts Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints remains a mystery.
“I want to step back because the competition has been so competitive. I’ve told both the guys that they’ve handled it really well. That’s not an easy thing to do. I want to take a step back and go back through everything so we can take emotion out of it and make a good, objective decision,” Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said last week.
The media followed up with Smith on Monday, September 5 to see if he’s made up his mind about the center starting job.
According to ESPN’s Michael Rothstein, Smith has made a decision but will not reveal it until the depth chart is released on Tuesday.
Rothstein later reported that Dalman had been working with the first team during the portion of practice that the media was allowed to view.
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Dalman Is Not Worried About Winning the Starting Job
With any competition, trash talk is normal but there has been none going on between Hennessey and Dalman during training camp.
“Hennessey is a great friend of mine,” Dalman said after a practice last week. “Every day we’re buddies and when we start practicing meetings and all that, we’re helping each other out. He’s taught me a ton and helped me out. It’s usually just pretty constructive stuff about practice.”
Dalman and Hennessey have been rotating with the first teamers all offseason so there has been no clear indication of who could start against the Saints on Sunday.
And while fans may be wondering, Dalman is not.
“I just practice every day and not worry about stuff. I have my own checklist of things to improve on, so that’s my main focus. I’m not spending too much time worrying about it.”
There’s Nothing “Magical” Happening to the O-Line
There is going to be a lot of pressure on the offensive line that allowed 40 sacks on Matt Ryan last season. And according to Dalman, not much has changed to the offensive line from last year––except for the fact that they’re operating as a unit now.
“Nothing magical or gimmicky,” Dalman said when asked what looks different on the offensive line. “Really, we just have a philosophy and we come out and work hard every day, so it’s just about learning to execute the things that we really want to be about. Primarily just being in shape, learn to execute and operate as a unit. Nothing fancy, just that.”
Dalman had the pleasure of blocking for Ryan last season, playing 68 offensive snaps as a rookie. Now, he’ll help keep the Falcons’ new starting quarterback, Marcus Mariota.
“They’re both awesome and incredible professionals. Obviously, I’ve learned a ton from both Ryan and Marcus. It’s just been great to work with both of them and Marcus has been a great leader for us this offseason.”
The Falcons will release their Week 1 depth chart vs. the Saints on Tuesday, September 6, which is when we’ll see if the Stanford product won the starting job or if they’re handing it off to the veteran.