A 16-game starter as a rookie in 2021, Jalen Mayfield missed all of last season due to injury. The Falcons designated the former third-round pick for return but let his practice period expire without an activation. Prior to the injury, Mayfield lost a competition for the team’s left guard gig last summer. They have since moved in another direction at guard, both sliding ex-center starter Matt Hennessy to that post and drafting Syracuse’s Matthew Bergeron in Round 2. As a result, Mayfield spent this offseason primarily at tackle, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes.
Mayfield started 15 of the 18 games he played at Michigan at right tackle. He struggled at guard as a rookie; Pro Football Focus rated him as one of the NFL’s worst O-linemen that year. Guard does not appear to be in Mayfield’s past, however, with Arthur Smith suggesting a swing backup role is likely. The Falcons re-signed right tackle Kaleb McGary this offseason and look to have a fairly set O-line, with Chris Lindstrom, longtime left tackle Jake Matthews and center Drew Dalman rounding out the unit.
Here is the latest from the NFC South:
- Calais Campbell is expected to play a true edge role in Atlanta, to the point Ledbetter slots the 300-pound defender as an outside linebacker in the Falcons’ defense. It should not be expected Campbell will spend much time in a standup position outside, but it is interesting the career-long D-lineman is even mentioned as a candidate to do so. Campbell is aiming to play around 60% of the Falcons’ defensive snaps, per Ledbetter. That would be in line with the veteran’s Ravens role; he respectively logged 64% and 62% snap rates over the past two seasons. Campbell, who signed a one-year deal worth $7MM, will turn 37 in September.
- On the topic of positional adjustments, the Panthers are giving Jordan Thomas a shot as an edge rusher. Formerly a sixth-round Texans pick in 2018, Thomas was a tight end during his previous NFL run. He caught 20 passes as a Houston rookie. Thomas, however, saw some time as an edge rusher in the XFL, and Joe Person of The Athletic notes he will attempt to make the Panthers’ 53-man roster as an outside linebacker (subscription required). This is a somewhat unusual transition, as Thomas still primarily played tight end in the XFL. He caught three TD passes this season.
- Through two seasons, the Saints have not seen much from first-round pick Payton Turner. The 2021 draftee should not be considered a lock to make New Orleans’ 53-man roster, Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.football writes. While Turner will be expected to make the team, due to his draft status and contract, the defensive end has three sacks in two seasons and was a healthy scratch at points last year. The Saints used a second-round pick on a D-end (Isaiah Foskey) and re-signed Tanoh Kpassagnon, but the team also let Marcus Davenport leave in free agency. The Saints would eat $3.2MM in dead money by waiving Turner; the Houston alum showing belated development would obviously be the best-case scenario for the team.
- New Orleans also did not re-sign Jarvis Landry this offseason, leaving some competition for the receiver spots alongside Chris Olave and Michael Thomas. James Washington is not a lock to make the Saints’ roster, but Underhill adds the ex-Steelers second-rounder impressed during the offseason program and will be in the mix to snag one of the backup jobs. The Saints signed Washington to a league-minimum deal with nothing guaranteed.
- The Panthers are still determining the best way to deploy Laviska Shenault, but Person notes a bigger run-game role will likely be in the cards. A fourth-year wide receiver, Shenault totaled nine carries last season. One of them went for a 41-yard touchdown. The former second-round pick worked in a hybrid capacity at points in Jacksonville as well and has logged 38 career carries.