NFL Rumors: Will Joe Hawley Start at Center for the Atlanta Falcons?

The Atlanta Falcons did a lot to solidify their sieve-like offensive line this off-season, and more changes could be on the way.

Although Peter Konz was drafted this year out of Wisconsin as a center, most of his work doing the rookie mini-camp and OTA sessions has been at right guard.  His height and leverage make him a natural at that position, and truthfully, it was a position that the Falcons had a more urgent need at than center.

But that begs the question, who will be the man who snaps the ball to Matt Ryan?  The depth chart says veteran Todd McClure.  But there are those who think that third-year man Joe Hawley is going to supplant McClure this year.

When Hawley was taken in the fourth round of the draft in 2010 out of UNLV, he was thought to have been the heir apparent to the aging McClure at center.  But two years later, he’s still shifting between guard and center, and mostly in a backup role.  A great deal of the lack of starting time at center may be due to the Falcons weakness at right guard, and having to use Hawley to fill that gap.  Another school of thought is that Hawley just hasn’t been quite good enough to move past McClure and start.

Why could this happen?  First, Hawley is younger and more mobile than the 35-year old McClure.  He’s also 6’3″, 305 pounds of gritty nastiness, which new offensive line coach Pat Hill loves.  Second, he’s got two years of game experience, and if Konz pans out at guard, then it will make the transition of Hawley to center that much easier.

Why couldn’t this happen? First, McClure is firmly entrenched in the position, and has been rock solid for over a decade now.  Although aged, he’s still one of the toughest competitors on the team, and won’t give up his starting position that easily.  Second, McClure is better at run blocking than Hawley (as illustrated by the Falcons lack of ability to make short yardage to the right side last year).  Hawley – who is excellent in pass protection – will have to step up his run blocking ability if he wants to move up on the depth chart.

It should prove to be an interesting battle, and having solid competition at any given position is one thing that definitely makes a team better.

 


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