Second year player Peter Konz shifted from right guard last season to center this season. Konz was drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft to one day supplant veteran C Todd McClure, who was in the twilight of his career. That one day came in the 2012 offseason when McClure announced his retirement from the NFL. This was supposed to be the year that Konz put his stamp on the center position by validating Thomas Dimitroff's faith in him as their starting center going forward. Center was Konz's natural position at Wisconsin, so it wasn't as if he was transitioning to a position he had never played before.
But Big Ten football is a far cry from the NFL. This is a lesson that Konz has learned all too often this season. He has been getting beaten up the middle on both passing and running plays, and has been chief in the Falcons' struggles to protect Matt Ryan, and in their struggle to get the run going.
In the beginning of the season, Ryan covered up the offensive line's holes, and the Falcons still rank in the top 10 in the NFL in passing yards per game at number five overall.
While a quarterback can cover for a bad offensive line to an extent, it's tough for a running back to do the same. The Falcons rank 30th in rushing yards per game out of a 32 team NFL.
In the nine games that Konz has started at center, the Falcons rushed for 88 yards, 36 yards, 146 yards, 58 yards, 64 yards, 18 yards, 27 yards, 78 yards and 64 yards.
That's only a total of 579 yards, and an average of 64.3 yards rushing per game. The Falcons run game has been inefficient, and that begins with the offensive line, but it also starts with that push up the middle, which the center is chiefly responsible for.
Outside of that one game against the Dolphins in which the Falcons rushed for 147 yards, the Falcons haven't broken the 100 yard mark rushing with Konz at center.
Konz hasn't given up too many sacks starting at center. According to profootballfocus.com, he's only allowed two. But the biggest issue for Konz has been hurries. He's allowed 14 on the season while playing center.
The Falcons also tried to switch Konz back to right guard against Tampa Bay a couple of weeks ago. That completely backfired in the first quarter when Konz gave up three sacks, and was pulled out of the game.
Take a look at how well the Falcons have done running the football since moving Joe Hawley to center. 152 yards, 91 yards and 151 yards. Solid production indeed, and a vast improvement over Konz's output. The Falcons are still getting killed by opposing pass rushers, but their offense was probably at its most effective this season against the Bills with Hawley at center.
Hawley probably isn't the long term answer at center, but Konz was expected to be that long term answer. Now, Konz's future has gone from bright to completely clouded.
Konz is continuing to play right guard, but it's unknown as to whether or not the Falcons think he should stay there long term.
There's no reason to give up on Konz yet, but he has been overmatched all season. The question is, do the Falcons look to draft another center next year as an insurance policy? Or do they stick to their guns and hope Konz can improve with another season under his belt heading into his second year at center, and his third year overall in the NFL?
Either way, Dimitroff's and Mike Smith's faith in him is definitely shaken.
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