Gono’s contract wasn’t set to expire until the start of the new league year on March 16, but an early would give him more time to find a new home, which didn’t take long for the former Falcons starter.
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Matt Gono Was Set to Start at Left Guard in 2021
Gono was the projected left guard starter heading into the 2021 season, but an unexpected shoulder surgery kept him on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) all year.
Gono,25, originally signed with Atlanta as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 NFL draft and was inactive and didn’t really start getting any playing time until his third year. He spent 2020 as the backup swing tackle behind Jake Matthews and Kaleb McGary where he saw action in all 16 games with four starts. He played a total of 337 offensive snaps in addition to 80 snaps on special teams. He signed his restricted free agent tender last offseason, which cost the Falcons $3.3 million and is guaranteed.
According to his agent, Gono is fully healthy again, which means he’ll be a huge boost to a shaky Giants offensive line.
The Falcons Will Rely on Mayfield, For Now
With Gono sidelined last season, the Falcons turned to rookie Jalen Mayfield to start at left guard and it was not a pretty sight.
The 2021 third-round pick allowed not only 11 sacks on Matt Ryan, but also 21 quarterback hits, and 25 hurries through 16 starts.
But you can’t blame the rookie for a poor first year after he was thrown into the fire as a starter in year one. Not to mention, that Mayfield went from starting right tackle at Michigan to a starter at left guard in the NFL.
While his improvement may not have been that noticeable to some fans, Mayfield believes he is improving.
“Whatever people want to say, or see, I know – and everybody in the building knows – I’m giving it my all,” Mayfield told Tori McElhaney of AtlantaFalcons.com as the end of the 2021 season. “I see the improvement.”
More importantly, head coach Arthur Smith said that he could see it too.
“I think week after week, he’s gotten better,” Smith said via Sports Illustrated. “Certainly, some weeks present maybe some more difficult matchups for him. But I think he’s handled it. … I think it’s a tough job for a rookie to go in there and start on the offensive line and he’s been consistent.”
He added: “A lot of players, certainly rookies, there are areas to improve. … If you look at the whole body of work, he’s played decently well. … He’s a young guy. You would think he would have a pretty good jump in Year 2.”
Until the Falcons bolster their offensive line in free agency or the draft, it looks like Mayfield is still a front runner for the starting left guard spot for the 2022 season as well.