In watching the preseason action so far this summer, I think the Falcons could potentially have a dilemma on their hand. Well, dilemma may be an overly strong word for the situation. They have a ‘situation’ in which they have two potential viable options to start this season at right guard.
Garrett Reynolds has gotten most of the first-team reps at right guard throughout the off-season, training camp, and in the preseason games. Peter Konz, the team’s top draft pick has worked with the second units and done well. Reynolds struggled last year at the start of the season, and the team was forced to pull the plug on him. But due to his work ethic and toughness, he was able to regroup this off-season and earn the brunt of the work. Konz has been playing catch-up since joining the Falcons. After spending three seasons exclusively at center during his collegiate days in Madison, Wisconsin, he basically had to learn the guard position. Konz has made solid progress so far and has made the battle for the starting spot pretty close.
Reynolds has shown improvement from a year ago, but he still shows the same flaws that he showed when he was struggling as the starter. He’s just too tall. And that’s no fault of Reynolds, but playing inside at center or guard is all about leverage, and the low man wins. And being 6-7 and 5/8ths works to any guard’s detriment. It’s rare to see a guard of that size be effective long-term in the NFL. Essentially, to overcome that abundance of height, your technique has to be darn near perfect. And thus far this summer in the preseason games, I’m not ready to say Reynolds is there. Better than last year? Yes. But quite where he should be? Nope. This is most apparent in pass protection, where Reynolds has to be better about bending his knees and using his hands to get low to deal with the quality defensive tackles he’ll see this year. Konz has done well in pass protection. While only a few inches shorter than Reynolds at 6-5, Konz appears a bit more comfortable in pass protection. His days as a center gives him the upper hand as far as being able to use his hands better and staying in front of the dumpier defensive tackles.
But the one thing that Reynolds has going over Konz is it appears that the former is the superior run blocker. Konz was a solid run blocker at Wisconsin for a center, but just hasn’t quite developed the power necessary to really push defenders off the ball. Reynolds has shown that he’s a bit better there at creating that necessary space for a back like Michael Turner as a straight-ahead run blocker. But where Konz does seem to be a bit better than Reynolds is at pulling and blocking on the move. If the Falcons are intent on using more zone runs up front this year, that might negate some of what Reynolds brings to the table.
The Falcons could go either way. Reynolds is arguably the safer choice because that is who Clabo and McClure have worked most with, and thus theoretically the potential for continuity issues coming up being less. But if the Falcons do opt to go with Reynolds, the presence of Konz plus his 2011 performance probably does mean that the leash could be very short headed into the season.