Matthew Bergeron

Falcons Place IOL Matt Hennessy On IR

Not having practiced since late July, third-year interior offensive lineman Matt Hennessy will head to injured reserve in Atlanta, according to Falcons digital managing editor Scott Bair. Hennessy has been dealing with an unspecified injury since then, one that will apparently require a stay on IR.

This continues what has been an up-and-down start to Hennessy’s NFL career thus far. After getting drafted in the third round out of Temple in 2020, Hennessy was used sparingly as a rookie, appearing in 13 games but only starting the final two of the season at center. With Alex Mack in San Francisco the following year, Hennessy took over as a full-time starter for the Falcons in 2021. Overall, Hennessy put forth a strong performance, boosted by elite run-blocking while struggling in pass protection.

Last year, the team decided to employ 2021 fourth-round pick Drew Dalman at the starting center spot after a training camp position battle, playing Hennessy only on special teams. A Week 9 injury placed starting left guard Elijah Wilkinson on IR, allowing Hennessy back into the starting lineup. A knee injury would force Hennessy onto IR for the next six weeks before he would eventually come back to start the final two games of the season.

Head coach Arthur Smith has said that Hennessy’s issue is related to something he was dealing with last year, so it’s possible that late-season knee injury is continuing to trouble him. In his absence, second-round rookie Matthew Bergeron has been consistently handling first-team duties for the Falcons. Hennessy entered camp as the team’s starting left guard but with the expectation that he would need to hold off Bergeron for the role.

The injury has not only opened the door to opportunity for Bergeron, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, second-year backup center Ryan Neuzil has benefitted, as well. While playing at left guard since losing the starting center job, Hennessy was still the top option to replace Dalman at center, should he succumb to injury. Hennessy’s chronic absence due to his own injury, though, has allowed Neuzil to work his way up the depth chart, making him the preferred option over Hennessy in certain injury situations.

It’s fortunate that the Falcons have such strong options to deal with Hennessy’s absence as it looks like he will be out for some time. According to another report from Ledbetter, Hennessy is expected to undergo surgery for his injury that will require a recovery period of 6-7 months, likely sidelining him for the entire 2023 season. If Hennessy is out for the year, that opens the door for Bergeron to start at left guard and Neuzil to solidify his role as the team’s top backup center.

In addition to the new roster spot opening up in Atlanta due to Hennessy’s move to IR, the Falcons filled the roster spot opened yesterday by linebacker Adetokunbo Ogundeji‘s placement on IR. According to Josh Alper of NBC Sports, Atlanta signed defensive lineman Delontae Scott to the roster today. A former undrafted free agent out of SMU, Scott has spent time in Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and Carolina over his first three years in the league. He provides some camp depth on defensive line for the rest of the preseason.

Matt Hennessy Favorite To Start At LG For Falcons?

Four-fifths of the Falcons’ starting offensive line is set, with Jake Matthews at left tackle, Drew Dalman at center, Chris Lindstrom at right guard, and Kaleb McGary at right tackle. That leaves an open spot at left guard, with Matt Hennessy and Matthew Bergeron vying for the role.

Atlanta clearly thinks highly of Bergeron, having traded up six spots in the second round of this year’s draft to select the Syracuse blocker. However, according to Tori McElhaney of the Falcons’ official website, Hennessy took all of the first-team reps at left guard throughout OTAs. McElhaney cautions that there is no reason to think that Bergeron is anything less than advertised, and that the team merely wants to ease him into action at the professional level.

After all, 2021 third-rounder Jalen Mayfield — who had never played on the interior of the line during his collegiate career — struggled mightily during his 16-game audition at left guard in his rookie season. He lost the starting job to journeyman Elijah Wilkinson during last year’s training camp and ultimately spent the entirety of the 2022 campaign on IR.

Bergeron, like Mayfield, lined up exclusively at tackle in college, so a measured approach to his development makes sense, especially in light of the cautionary tale that Mayfield presented. And it’s not as if Hennessy is an incapable player. A third-round pick in 2020, Hennessy became the Falcons’ full-time center in his second pro season and graded out as one of the league’s best pivots that year in the eyes of Pro Football Focus’ metrics (though his stellar run-blocking grade of 88.1 compensated for a rather poor pass-blocking mark of 50.5).

However, just as Mayfield lost his job to Wilkinson, Hennessy ceded his starting role to Dalman last summer, and between that development and a knee injury, the Temple product appeared in just 157 snaps in 2022. All of that work came at left guard, and while that is obviously a small sample size, his 75.4 PFF grade — including an improved 69.2 pass-block assessment — would have made him a top-10 guard if he had enough snaps to qualify.

As he enters his contract year, Hennessy will certainly be motivated to fend off his younger competition. McElhaney, who did not notice any glaring issues with Hennessy’s performance in spring work, indicates that he stands a good chance of entering Week 1 as the starting LG. Training camp, of course, will bring more clarity in that regard.

Falcons Sign OL Matthew Bergeron, Finish Rookie Signings

The Falcons announced that they’ve signed second-round offensive lineman Matthew Bergeron to his rookie contract. Bergeron was the team’s final draft pick to sign his rookie deal.

The lineman spent four years at Syracuse, culminating in a 2022 campaign where he earned second-team All-ACC honors and a Senior Bowl invite. Scouts lauded his run-blocking ability and versatility, and the Falcons ended up selecting him with the 38th-overall pick in the draft.

While Bergeron exclusively played offensive tackle in college, the Falcons are planning on switching him to offensive guard, where many scouts believed he’d excel. While the rookie has never played the position, the Falcons are confident that he’ll be capable of making the change.

“It’s the way he is built,” head coach Arthur Smith said (via Tori McElhaney of the team’s website). “Everybody has different philosophies in what they’re looking for in offensive linemen. And some people get so rigid on schemes or whatever it is, their cup of tea that they’re looking for with o-linemen. But when a guy is as smart as Matt and the way he has played, really for us (it’s) the vision of the way he is built.”

The Falcons will return much of the same offensive line next season, but it sounds like Bergeron is the front runner for the starting left guard gig.

The team got most of their draft picks signed before OTAs, a group that includes:

Cowboys Rumors: Parsons, Draft, Ball, Smith

Cowboys defensive star Micah Parsons has not been in attendance for voluntary workouts in Dallas thus far. According to Calvin Watkins of The Dallas Morning News, this has nothing to do with any issues in his relationship with the team and is actually in service of the team.

Parsons has reportedly been in Austin attempting to bulk up in preparation for more playing time at defensive end. One of the NFL’s more versatile athletes, Parsons played mostly in the box as a rookie before spending the majority of his time last year on the line. At 245 pounds last year, Dallas staff felt he needed to add some muscle in order to better handle routine double-teams.

So, Parsons’s absence is not contract related in any way. He says he’s added about seven pounds and doesn’t intend to surpass 255 in his career. Parsons also claimed earlier that he would be in attendance for Organized Team Activities set to start in two weeks. His absence shouldn’t worry too many as he’s determined to come back stronger and even more dangerous.

Here are a few more rumors concerning the Cowboys:

  • There was reportedly another option on the table for the Cowboys when they used the 26th overall pick to select Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith in the first round of this year’s draft. According to David Moore of The Dallas Morning News, Dallas heavily considered using the pick to draft Syracuse offensive guard Matthew Bergeron, who would go on to be selected by Atlanta 12 picks later. Bergeron fit their needs due to the departure of starting guard Connor McGovern to Buffalo. They did address the offensive line later in the draft and likely still will with undrafted free agents, but many expect last year’s first rounder, Tyler Smith, to bounce into a guard spot with the healthy returns of Tyron Smith and Terence Steele, covering the role.
  • Another piece of the offensive line, Josh Ball will have some new expectations this year, according to ESPN’s Todd Archer. After Ball saw extremely limited time in his first two years, mostly at tackle, head coach Mike McCarthy has stated that Ball will be asked to play on the interior this season, as well. This is perhaps another potential solution to the loss of McGovern, or it could just be a backup plan after seeing all the offensive line injuries from last season.
  • Mostly known for his career in San Francisco but last known on the field as a Cowboy, Aldon Smith recently received an update to his off-field situation. Last we heard, the troubled defender had been arrested on a felony charge of DUI causing injury, adding to the litany of issues that had resulted in a four-year suspension from the NFL. Now, according to TMZ, Smith’s arrest has led to a 12-month sentence in jail, likely ending any far-reaching hopes of a return to the NFL.

AFC North Draft Rumors: Steelers, Ravens, Bengals

There have been quite a few rumors surrounding the Steelers’ potential approach to the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette held a Q&A this week to discuss his thoughts on some of those rumors.

Many fans had questions about potential options at wide receiver, and Dulac made his thoughts very clear: no higher than the third round. With Diontae Johnson and George Pickens in place, Dulac doesn’t see any need to dip into the first two rounds to add to the group. He mentions Ole Miss wide receiver Jonathan Mingo as a name to lookout for, as Mingo has been predicted to go around the third or fourth round.

Another fan asked about the possibility of Pittsburgh trading up in the first round. Dulac dismissed the rumors as just that, insinuating that looking into trades is a common occurrence for the Steelers that doesn’t always lead to action. He referenced last year, when the team reportedly looked into trading up for quarterback Kenny Pickett, who would end up falling to them at their original position, anyway.

Here are a few other draft rumors from around the AFC North: