NFL training camp: Best battle to watch for each team

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 30: Justin Bethel
CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 30: Justin Bethel /
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DENVER, CO – OCTOBER 9: Center Ben Garland
DENVER, CO – OCTOBER 9: Center Ben Garland /

Atlanta Falcons: Ben Garland vs. Wes Schweitzer

When a team is a defending conference champion, barring a mass exodus in the offseason, that club should have one of the most stacked rosters in football. The NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons didn’t lose much in the 2017 offseason, but do have a few minor holes to fill. One of which is starting right guard.

While Steve Sarkisian takes over for Kyle Shanahan as Atlanta’s new offensive coordinator, the Falcons will return four of five starters up front to make the transition easier. Alex Mack is elite at center. Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder are solid out on the edge at both tackle spots. Left guard Andy Levitre is often overlooked, but he’s been great for Atlanta the last two years since being traded over from Tennessee.

With starting right guard Chris Chester retiring from football after last year’s Super Bowl run, it will  likely come down to two players as his replacement up front in Atlanta: Ben Garland and Wes Schweitzer. One could throw rookie Sean Harlow out of Oregon State into the mix, but we should expect either Garland or Schweitzer to win the job at right guard for the Falcons.

Garland was the sixth offensive lineman for the Falcons, spelling guys on the offensive interior and even playing some defensive tackle just to get some well-earned reps. Atlanta drafted Schweitzer out of San José State in the 2016 NFL Draft. While he played sparingly as a rookie, he’s a guy the fine folks in Flowery Branch rave about. Garland has to be the front-runner for the job, but Schweitzer will get his opportunity to compete for it. Maybe Harlow emerges as a dark horse contender with a great rookie camp?