Surprise Retirement Leaves Falcons With Hole To Fill

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On their path to Superbowl 51, the Falcons got help from superb offensive line play. One of the more underappreciated members of the O-line unit was Chris Chester, a surprise success over the past few seasons. After becoming a starter with the injury of starting guard Jon Asamoah before the 2015 season, Chester has been a stable player for the Falcons, staying relatively healthy while playing well above his skill level. While the Falcons seemed to have no glaring holes to fill in the off season, Chester’s retirement leaves an important hole that the Falcons need to address if they hope to reach the heights of last season. While we wish him luck in his post playing career, here are a few options for the Falcons to fill the hole at right guard.

In House Options

While the preference would be to pick up a guard in the early rounds of the draft, the Falcons do have some options on the current roster. The first option would be Ben Garland. Garland has become a bit of a fan favorite after his “safety” of Russell Wilson in the NFC Divisional Round (Wilson tripped and Garland touched him) and has experience playing on both sides of the ball. He has good size and leverage, but his inexperience and professional pedigree could keep him from getting the job. The other option is Wes Schweitzer, the Falcons 2016 6th round pick out of San Jose State. Picked mostly as a backup guard or long term prospect, Schweitzer now seems himself with the real possibility of starting. Coming out of college, Schweitzer showed NFL ready size, but lacked the strength to deal with the level of pass rushers in the NFL. If he is able to gain the strength necessary to handle pro level defenders, he could be a solid option for the Falcons.

Dion Dawkins – Temple

The first option is Dion Dawkins out of Temple. He was a tackle for his College career, but could easily play at guard, and with his tendency to get beat on the outside and hold, that may be the best option. With good size and strength, he could be a good get in the second or third rounds, but his past problems with “extra curricular activities” could keep the falcons from drafting him. He also has some stiff movement that would needed to be fixed before he is able to face pro level pass rushers.

Dan Feeney – Indiana

The second option is Dan Feeney out of Indiana. As a starter all four years at Indiana, he never allowed a sack and has experience at both tackle and guard, but projects as a starting guard. Has decent size and is an above average pass protector. His good movement would make him ideal for the Falcons system, and he played in the zone blocking scheme in college. The only thing that he would need to correct would be his tendency to have stiff hip movement. If the Falcons are able to get him in the second round, that would allow them to take a much needed pass rusher in the first round. He played with Tevin Coleman at Indiana, so that already give him familiarity with the Falcons backs.

Forrest Lamp – Western Kentucky

The third and final option for filling the hole at right guard is Forrest Lamp out of Western Kentucky. Lamp is seen as the preemptive top guard prospect in the draft and if he is available at 31, the Falcons are likely to pick him up. He has good athleticism given his smaller size. His solid movement makes him ideal for the Falcons blocking scheme and his experience blocking against the bigger players of the SEC gives him a distinct advantage at the next level. Lamp is seen as the one cant miss offensive guard prospect of this years draft, and if he falls to the Falcons, he would be a perfect fit to fill the hole left by Chester’s retirement.

Even though Chris Chester’s surprise left the Falcons with a unforeseen hole to fill, they have a plethora of options. Whether they choose to promote from within or pick a NFL ready prospect in the draft, the Falcons should be able to stabilize the offensive line in time for next season.

All stats and Draft Profiles via NFL.com

Photo Credits to Dale Zanine/USA Today Sports