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Falcons Offensive Lineman James Stone Not Caught Up In Starting Role


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Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman James Stone not caught up in starting role

  • Vaughn McClure

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- When the Atlanta Falcons broke into situational full-team drills Tuesday, the first-team offensive line continued to be left tackle Jake Matthews, left guard James Stone, center Joe Hawley, right guard Chris Chester, and right tackle Ryan Schraeder.

The emergence of Stone is part of the reason former starting right guard Jon Asamoah finds himself working with the backups. However, Stone hasn't approached the situation as if he's won a starting job just yet.

"I'm just working in camp, man," Stone said when asked about being a starter. "I'm trying to get as good as I can at whatever position and at all the positions in the inside."

The Falcons need to find continuity along the line if they hope to run Kyle Shanahan's outside zone blocking scheme effectively. It was quite a challenge at the beginning of training camp, with linemen tripping over each other while trying to get out and run laterally. Tuesday, the line appeared to be much more in sync with the same five working together rather than the mixing and matching of days past.

Finding such chemistry in the offseason was impossible with Matthews (Lisfranc foot) and Hawley (ACL/MCL) coming off major surgeries.

"It's just good to have the injured guys back and myself, trying to work to get better," Hawley said. "I know Jake is out there. [We're] starting to jell. It's a different kind of system. It relies on a lot of teamwork as an offensive line; combination blocks. And we're starting to jell pretty good.''

Hawley spoke specifically about developing a connection with a new right guard in Chester, who signed with the Falcons this offseason but played under Shanahan in Washington.

"I love Chester," Hawley said. "He's a great guy. And having him in our room has helped me out a lot because he's run this offense for a long time with Kyle Shanahan. So having him in the room and playing next to him, he's a very talented player. He has a lot of experience. And just trying to get better like him."

We'll see how much Matthews, Stone, Hawley, Chester, and Schraeder play together during Friday's exhibition opener against Tennessee. Falcons coach Dan Quinn wouldn't commit to how long he would play the first units but said some starters will play longer than other starters based on experience.

A few quick-hit items from the 10th practice of training camp:

Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman remained sidelined by hamstring strains, while outside linebacker Brooks Reed and defensive lineman Cliff Matthews were still out with hip/groin and ankle injuries, respectively. All four players ran through variety of drills on a side field, and Coleman appeared to be quicker and more fluid with his motions than the other three. The strains suffered by Freeman and Coleman last week are expected to be two-week injuries, at minimum.

Wide receiver/kick returner Devin Hester returned to practice after sitting out two days with a toe/ankle issue. He did not participate much.

Starting linebacker Justin Durant once again saw his practice reps limited, as has been the case at least two other times during camp. Quinn said Durant is "healthy" after previously suffering a groin injury. Joplo Bartu got first-team reps with Durant dressed but resting.

Running back Antone Smith ran with the starting offense late in the practice, likely an indication of what to expect in Friday's exhibition. Jerome Smith was second up with undrafted rookie Terron Ward, who played with the starters the last few days, third in the rotation.

Rookie pass-rusher Vic Beasley and Matthews had a fierce battle at the start of one-on-one pass-rush drills.

The Falcons were down one safety after undrafted rookie Terell Floyd was waived.

The music playlist at practice included Nelly ("#1"), Nore ("Nothin'"), and Wiz Khalifa ("Black & Yellow").

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I'm much more comfortable with where we're at with Chester proving viable as a main cog, and the emergence of Stone as the potential starter at RG. That's a couple of specific things that have me feeling optimistic about how this OL will perform this season, and I like the way Matthews has come back from injury as well. There'll be some lapses in the next month to six weeks, but the ZBS fits the guys we have. Once the offense has had enough reps as a unit, they'll be way better than last year's group was at the end of the season, which if you'll remember, was actually pretty good except for the Carolina massacre. But getting back to Stone, I like his attitude and I think he's going to be a fixture on this OL for years to come.

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This chart is far from over. Asamoah can still be the starter but Quinn needs quality back up and Chester may need that starter mentality. As for with Stone and Hawley, as for with the rest of our first, second and third stringers. This chart can change at the drop of a dime.

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I honestly don't understand why Asa isn't starting. I thought he was our best lineman last year and still would be this year.

Injury? Did he get complacent? Did Stone's bawls drop and he become a beastie beast?

If I'm a betting man, I'd bet that it's mostly due to scheme. Chester has already played in this scheme where I don't think Asamoah has. If Asamoah gets more comfortable with the scheme then he may out perform Chester, as DQ said, a long way to go and Asamoah will certainly have his chances...

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I honestly don't understand why Asa isn't starting. I thought he was our best lineman last year and still would be this year.

Injury? Did he get complacent? Did Stone's bawls drop and he become a beastie beast?

We know that Matt Ryan in this new offense won't just be a drop back passer every time he throws the ball. The notes and tweets from practice are talking about Matt throwing on the run.

So maybe with Matt not staying in the pocket or at least not being a fixture in the pocket, the o-line has to be more dynamic and mobile in blocking for him. Quinn also said the o-line guys need to be able to get out and run, and I assume that's in reference to some things they want to do in running the ball. If that's not a strength of Asamoah who may be best suited for pass blocking on a standard drop back pass play, then I can see how he could get moved out of the starting role.

I'm still shocked that he's not starting based on how he stood out as our best blocker last season, but I can see how it might be possible.

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Asamoah played LG at KC. He'll start week 1 with Stone the backup C and OG.

Yeah, I still have to think that Asamoah is going to pull out a starting job before Week 1... but it's nice to hear that Stone (and Person) have been impressing so far in camp.

I'm much more worried about our depth at offensive tackle than I am about who's going to start along the interior line.

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Yeah, I still have to think that Asamoah is going to pull out a starting job before Week 1... but it's nice to hear that Stone (and Person) have been impressing so far in camp.

I'm much more worried about our depth at offensive tackle than I am about who's going to start along the interior line.

Me too. Heaven help us if Polumbus or 7th-round pick Jake Rodgers get pressed into significant playing time during the regular season due to injury. Hopefully Atlanta will add some better OT depth before the regualr season kicks off.

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If I'm a betting man, I'd bet that it's mostly due to scheme. Chester has already played in this scheme where I don't think Asamoah has. If Asamoah gets more comfortable with the scheme then he may out perform Chester, as DQ said, a long way to go and Asamoah will certainly have his chances...

Asamoah played in a ZBS in college and at KC. He's suited for the scheme well, my guess is he's just coming back into things after a "serious" ankle injury this offseason and having that stomach bug. Stone has looked pretty good tho..

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Man, I really hope Shanahan is man enough to realize that he has a QB who's forte is to drop back and pass, not a rollout, mobile guy like having an RGIII. ZBS for the run game and good ol' fashioned pass blocking for the passing game is where we'd excel. Ryan's rollouts make me cringe a little, but he's one of the best pocket stand and deliver guys in the league...

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It seems that it’s hard for most folks to come to grips with the fact that Chester and Stone just might be better than Asamoah.

The more I think about it the more I realize that if Asamoah is in a fight for his position then the O-line may be in better shape than we thought – at least the guard situation may be..

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Man, I really hope Shanahan is man enough to realize that he has a QB who's forte is to drop back and pass, not a rollout, mobile guy like having an RGIII. ZBS for the run game and good ol' fashioned pass blocking for the passing game is where we'd excel. Ryan's rollouts make me cringe a little, but he's one of the best pocket stand and deliver guys in the league...

There have been numerous reports out of training camp about how good Ryan has looked rolling-out. Perhaps the guy can throw rolling out just as well as in drop-back situations. The only thing that I have against roll-outs is that it seems to limit the field to the side of the roll-out, whereas a drop-back pass has the entire field available.

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It seems that it’s hard for most folks to come to grips with the fact that Chester and Stone just might be better than Asamoah.

The more I think about it the more I realize that if Asamoah is in a fight for his position then the O-line may be in better shape than we thought – at least the guard situation may be..

Absolutely. Plus some might not want to admit thar R_the _Great might be dead right about Stone afterall.

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I honestly don't understand why Asa isn't starting. I thought he was our best lineman last year and still would be this year.

Injury? Did he get complacent? Did Stone's bawls drop and he become a beastie beast?

Well, we do know sometimes coaches intentionally demote at times to get player's attention, my man. Also, sometimes they promote a guy for confidence. I assume they play these games all the time in pros training camp, mixing and matching. I don't see it as any big deal, my guess is he'll be our starting G with Stones as C/G backup.

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I'm much more comfortable with where we're at with Chester proving viable as a main cog, and the emergence of Stone as the potential starter at RG. That's a couple of specific things that have me feeling optimistic about how this OL will perform this season, and I like the way Matthews has come back from injury as well. There'll be some lapses in the next month to six weeks, but the ZBS fits the guys we have. Once the offense has had enough reps as a unit, they'll be way better than last year's group was at the end of the season, which if you'll remember, was actually pretty good except for the Carolina massacre. But getting back to Stone, I like his attitude and I think he's going to be a fixture on this OL for years to come.

I've heard that the ZBS takes quite a while and many reps to master and for the unit to finally gel. Therefore, I don't think we will see how good the Offensive Line is in this new system until toward the end of the season, certainly not at the beginning of the season. But you are correct in that our current OL personnel seem to be better suited for a Zone system than for a Power system, except perhaps for Asamoah. Vaughn McClure has been saying for a while now that Asa is really not a good fit for the ZBS. Perhaps he is not quite mobile enough for Zone blocking, and an ankle injury is certainly not helping his mobility. One minor correction in your post. The Falcons are currently using Stone at LG not at RG, with Chester being the RG.

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If Stone is good enough to start I would much rather him displace Chester than Asamoah.

Why? I don't care what the names of the best 5 are. I just want the best 5 out there. If Larry Johnson's "Grandmama" is the best LT, then Matthews can ride the pine until he can earn his job back.

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If Stone is good enough to start I would much rather him displace Chester than Asamoah.

I just want the best players on the field. I give no craPs that asamoah was our best lineman last year. if chester looks better, I want to see chester

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