Since Thomas Dimitroff became general manager in January 2008, the Atlanta Falcons have drafted nine offensive linemen. Not a lot, when you think about it — nine in eight drafts — but still: That’s the number of O-linemen they took. We now call the roll of all those who remain on the active roster.
End of roll call.
Technically, Lamar Holmes is on the physically unable to perform list, but everyone else is gone. Joe Hawley was just cut. Peter Konz took an injury buyout and went away. Sam Baker was released in June. Mike Johnson retired in June. Jake Rodgers, who was a seventh-round pick in April, got cut. (He was considered a project, but still: Who made that pick?)
Under Dimitroff, the Falcons have drafted one offensive lineman — Baker — who was able to hold a job. (We assume Matthews will, but he was, given that he was the sixth overall pick in 2014, underwhelming as a rookie. He was also hurt. Funny how many Falcons draftees get hurt.)
I’d argue that Baker was actually given a bad rap in this burg: The Falcons needed a left tackle to give the then-rookie Matt Ryan a chance, and Baker sufficed. Then he got hurt, too.
But there are your numbers — nine linemen drafted over eight years, one on the 53-man roster. The Falcons did sign Ryan Schraeder (now a starter) and James Stone (sometimes a starter) as undrafted free agents, but botching nearly every O-line pick means you have to scrounge. And now, with rookie head coach Dan Quinn given control of the final roster, we’re seeing how desperate this team has become.
The Falcons’ depth chart lists Mike Person, who has worked in five organizations since 2011, as the starting center. The starting guards are Chris Chester, released by Washington in May, and Andy Levitre, who started for the Titans (a terrible team) last season but was available in trade for two draft picks.
Backups include Gino Gradowski, waived by Denver; Tyler Polumbus, benched in Washington last season and on his fifth organization since 2010; Bryce Harris, released by New Orleans last week, and the aforementioned Stone.
The good news, I guess, is that this cobbled-together line cannot possibly be worse than its predecessors. (Well, can it?) The bad news is that the Falcons, on the cusp of Opening Night, are still in the market for linemen. On Wednesday they signed another — Ben Garland, cut by Denver last week — and assigned him to the practice squad.
If nothing else, we might have gotten an answer to the question often asked: Why didn’t Dimitroff draft more linemen? Maybe because he realized he wasn’t very good at it. As Inspector Harry Callahan of SFPD famously said: A man has to know his limitations.