2020, from start to finish, wasn’t the year any of us wanted. In purely NFL terms, the Atlanta Falcons had as poor a year as they’ve had in recent history. The players fell flat on their face immediately after leaving the starting gate, the long time General Manager and Head Coach duo were unceremoniously moved on mid-season, and the team ended the season with their highest draft pick since 2008. It was a mess.
With the season over, it’s time to dissect that mess. As we face an uncertain new future, let’s take one last look back at the season, so see if there’s anything positive we can take into the new regime. So, join me as we sift through the awful to, hopefully, find little nuggets of good.
Jake Matthews – B
James Carpenter – D-
Alex Mack – C-
Chris Lindstrom – B+
Kaleb McGary – C
Matt Hennessey – D
Justin McCray – D
Matt Gono – C-
Yet again, the Falcons offensive line was pretty poor, save for a couple of notable exceptions. Jake Matthews, a player criminally underrated by Falcons fans, put together another solid, if unspectacular, season, allowing only 3 sacks over the season. He’s nothing special, granted, but he’s a good, solid, and consistent player along the Falcons offensive line. A return to outside zone blocking should see him gain further recognition league wide. Chris Lindstrom, on the other hand, took huge steps forward in 2020. Only allowing 4 sacks, Lindstrom performed to a high level over the course of the season. I won’t pretend like I know how to properly evaluate offensive linemen, but neither player felt like they were an issue in 2020.
Kaleb McGary had a bit of a rougher run, though showed flashes of what could be. McGary suffered the ultimate “up and down” season, and we’re no closer to really knowing what sort of career McGary will have. Perhaps a change of scheme will set up the breakout season we hope to see from him. A thought, as well, on Alex Mack, who has almost certainly played his last down as a Falcon. Mack was exactly what the Falcons offensive line needed in 2016, and played well in the seasons following as well. 2020 was, comfortably, his poorest season as a Falcon, yet he still played to a pretty ok level. He’s unlikely to return in 2021, however he will certainly be missed.
James Carpenter did nothing to suggest he is capable of starting in the NFL. Carpenter just looked bang average at best, and his 56.1 PFF grade suggests that assessment is fair. He split snaps with Matt Hennessey, who is likely to be the Falcons starting center in 2021. Hennessey, too, suffered a poor season, looking overwhelmed in his starts at center. Unlike Carpenter, Hennessey has the benefit of inexperience to point to when justifying keeping him around.
Someone who quietly impressed in 2020 was Matt Gono, who I know Falcons fans are quietly hopeful for. Gono stepped in when McGary missed time, as well as operating inside on occasion. His versatility will likely earn him a spot on the roster next season, primarily as the teams first choice swing tackle.