Matt Hennessy started all 17 games at for the Atlanta Falcons in 2021, but his performance was mixed at best. The second-year pro had a lot of trouble with powerful interior linemen on the other side of the ball, getting bullied at times.
Couple Hennessy’s struggles with rookie left guard Jalen Mayfield’s as the worst pass blocking lineman in the league according to Pro Football Focus, and the offense had not one, but two gaping holes up the middle.
Drew Dalman was selected in the fourth-round by the Falcons in 2021 draft with a pick they obtained from the Denver Broncos when they traded back in the second round. The Broncos used that pick to take budding-star Javonte Williams at running back, and the Falcons chose safety Richie Grant and Dalman.
Dalman finds himself in a battle at training camp with Hennessy for the starting center spot. They’ve been getting relatively equal amount of snaps with the first team, and head coach Arthur Smith revealed what he was looking for when making a decision between the two.
“Obviously, the physical stuff you need to see inside but a lot of it is command,” said Smith. “The really great centers, I mean putting Todd McClure in the ring of honor, everything that I’ve heard about Todd McClure, you could go back and argue and Matt [Ryan] would tell you this. When he was a young player, having that veteran center, a guy who had command, that helps you. I mean they run the show out there; right down the middle of your offense, your center, and your quarterback, if they’ve got command then you have a really good shot.”
“Seeing Ben Jones do it, he helped change the culture in Tennessee, a guy that can anchor the middle and we’re looking for a guy that’s got that kind of command. Obviously, Alex Mack did it here and did it at a really high level. That’s such an important position so command, obviously minimum job requirement, being able to block your guy but we want to see that presence as well.”
Smith began by saying “obviously the physical stuff…” There wasn’t a lot of difference between Hennessy and Dalman when it came to agility and power in 2021. Dalman should be improved in his second season, but this is also just Hennessy’s third year.
The Falcons offensive line was arguably the weakest link on the team in 2021. At least two positions appear to be up for grabs including left guard and center. The center position may come down to confidence… or command… as Smith puts it.