Falcons' Tice speaks on right tackle battle

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- While most of the attention remains on rookie Jake Matthews' switch to left tackle, the competition continues to determine which player will be the Atlanta Falcons' starting right tackle for the Sept. 7 season opener against New Orleans.

"It's wide open, man," offensive line coach Mike Tice said.

Lamar Holmes, Gabe Carimi, and Ryan Schraeder all have a shot, although Holmes was the guy called upon first when starting left tackle Sam Baker suffered a season-ending knee injury and Matthews switched from right to left. But Carimi, who just returned to practice Monday off an ankle injury, didn't play in the first three preseason games.

Tice assessed all three players, starting with Holmes.

"Lamar's a big, good-looking athlete," Tice said. "I like that kind of player. He's played (in the past). He's really worked hard to get better at his technique. He's really worked hard to eliminate mental mistakes. I like where he is right now. He's coming off two good games."

Tice had Carimi in Chicago, when the Bears made the former Wisconsin Badger their first-round draft pick.

"Gabe was having a great camp before he got hurt -- as good as anybody in the room," Tice said. "I felt like his best value for us was going to be as a swing guy. Now that we've had the injury to Sam, that opens up a chance for Gabe to compete with Lamar and Ryan for the right-tackle spot."

Both Holmes and Carimi have 15 or more career starts. Schraeder has four, all at right tackle last season.

"Ryan is very intelligent," Tice said. "He can play both sides, which is important. He's athletic. He's tough. But he's got a long way to go with his technique. It's inconsistent."

Carimi, considered a draft bust in Chicago, might have been the favorite had it not been for the ankle injury suffered during a joint practice with the Tennessee Titans. And the Falcons' brass no doubt wants to see Holmes emerge, being that he was a third-round draft pick in 2012.

"It's going to be a hell of a battle," Tice said. "Ultimately it's, of course, coach (Mike) Smith's decision. And we'll make sure that all three of them have enough plays this week to make a fair evaluation."

Tice believes Holmes took a step forward against the Titans Saturday night.

"Lamar has a high ceiling," Tice said. "He's using his hands better. The main thing with him, as a young player, is the consistency with his technique. We need to continue to strive to be consistent.

"But I'm a fan. I'm a fan of all three of the guys, of course. We're going make sure that all three have enough reps this week for (Smith) and I and whoever else is involved in the decision to make the decision."