The defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons have a big hole to fill on their offensive line. Is Wes Schweitzer the right man for the job?
This past season, the Atlanta Falcons scored a NFL-high 540 points. That figure is tied for eighth in NFL history in terms of the most in one season. Led by quarterback and NFL MVP Matt Ryan, the club’s offensive unit was incredibly consistent. Along with the contributions from the skill people, Dan Quinn’s got excellent play from an offensive led by veteran center Alex Mack.
But now one cog of that unit as opted for retirement. Right guard Chris Chester spent the past two seasons with the Falcons after a combined nine years with the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins.
When it comes to Pro Football Focus and its grades, Chester saw his numbers slip dramatically from the previous year – his first with the Falcons. After earning a 78.8 mark in 2015, that figure dropped to 62.3 this past season. Of course, ESPN’s Vaughn McClure reminds us that the 11-year pro had offseason shoulder surgery after the ’15 campaign.
So who will fill the void? This offseason, the Falcons signed former Indianapolis Colts guard Hugh Thornton. But like Chester, he would end up opting for retirement. The team has versatile Ben Garland on the roster. In the fourth round of April’s draft, they grabbed Oregon State’s Sean Harlow.
But it was in the sixth round of the 2016 selection process that the club took a chance on 6’5”, 302-pound guard Wes Schweitzer from San Jose State. He did not play during his rookie season and is now in contention for a starting job. He brings impressive size to a unit that performed extremely well this past season.
This offseason, the Atlanta Falcons did a pretty good job of keeping their starting offensive core together. The team did lose offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who became the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Meanwhile, fullback Patrick DiMarco opted to sign with the Buffalo Bills. And of course, there’s the retirement of Chester. It’s an ideal opportunity for Wes Schweitzer, who spent a season learning from afar when it comes to this job opening.
Russell S. Baxter covers the Atlanta Falcons for Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter at @baxfootballguru. Looking for more Falcons news and features? Like our Falcons Facebook page HERE and also follow @spot_falcons on Twitter.