Jalen Mayfield might be a chess piece for the Atlanta Falcons offensive line. But in the NFL, chess pieces move quickly, meaning the rookie might need time to adjust to that speed.
Mayfield, who was drafted out of Michigan in the third round last April, currently has been working the right tackle position to begin camp. With Kaleb McGary and Matt Gono on the physically-unable-to-perform list, the rookie could be asked to step up.
Good thing Mayfield's mistakes are coming in camp and not on Sundays.
Overall, as of this particular summer Sunday, the results were mixed. He had a rough outing for a moment against linebacker Jacob Tuioti-Mariner that ended with him on his back.
But these things take time - and development takes competition, too - and new coach Arthur Smith knows that.
“You’ve got to have real competition. With some of the injuries or protocols we are having to move guys around,” Smith said Friday after practice. “I always look at it like we’re in the solution business. We have to find solutions to those problems.”
Mayfield returning to tackle could just take time. For most of OTAs, he worked the left guard spot. Many scouts believed for him to start at this next level, a move inside would be the best plan of action.
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Then again, whose to say having that versatility won't come in handy?
“We know what he played in college and how we evaluated him,” Smith said. “We think he has the skill set that gives him a chance inside as well. It just depends on the health of our team."
McGary soon will return in what is a pivotal year for his career. The Falcons offensive line is looking to remain consistent despite the losses of Alex Mack and James Carpenter.
Mayfield's skills could warrant starting — somewhere. Do the Falcons believe in the "best five'' philosophy? Will the rookie be among the "best five''? He'll have to earn that and prove that over the next four weeks before a Week 1 regular season opener against the Eagles.
“Is he going to earn that spot out there at right tackle? If he’s not, we’ve got to make the right decision," Smith said. "If he’s not going to play right tackle, he has to be able to play inside or play multiple spots.”
Mayfield is a chess piece on the move - as things are moving quickly.