Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith has always preached the importance of staying healthy during training camp and preseason, to come into week one of the regular season as fully stocked as possible. So far this season, the Falcons are–like many teams–getting dinged early with some major injuries.
Starting right tackle Mike Johnson suffered a dislocated ankle and fractured fibula to his left leg while running 9-on-7 run drills in the team’s joint practice with the Cincinnati Bengals. Johnson had to be carted from the field on a stretcher and then was taken from the practice facility via ambulance. He is scheduled for surgery on the leg next week.
One of the areas of focus this offseason was the right side of the Falcons offensive line, as both the guard and tackle positions were going to undergo changes. Last year’s starting right tackle, Tyson Clabo, was released during the offseason, and starting right guard Peter Konz is in the midst of battling for the starting center position this season.
The right tackle position will now be manned by second year player Lamar Holmes, last year’s third round pick out of Southern Miss. Holmes was pressed into duty during the preseason last year when Will Svitek was injuried, but only saw playing time in one regular season game. Currently, Holmes’ backup is rookie free-agent Alex Savoie.
It’s worth noting that all of the current backup tackles on both sides are rookie free agents, which could end up being a huge concern for the Falcons. With Johnson out for the foreseeable future, and Clabo now protecting Ryan Tannehill in Miami, depth is going to be big factor when it comes to keeping defenders off of Atlanta’s $103.75 million man, Matt Ryan.
Holmes is going to have to make some huge strides over the next four weeks in such a crucial position, unless the Falcons decide to shop the free agent market for a veteran tackle – which, to be truthful there aren’t many available.
The Falcons have also lost backup tight end Tommy Gallarda for the season with a shoulder injury that forced the team to reach an injury settlement with the second year player out of Boise State, and starting linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is being held out of the first preseason game due to a dislocated finger.
The team will give updates on Johnson after his procedure has been completed.
Michael Collins is an Atlanta sports humorist, columnist, radio host and owner of Georgia Sports Craze. He is a member of the FWAA and eats peanut butter straight from the jar. Follow on Twitter @GaSportsCraze on Facebook here or on Google here