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Falcons line still in flux; Jake Long still being considered

James Stone looked well on his way to securing the Atlanta Falcons' starting left guard spot. Then he got hit with a punishing combination and fell to the canvas.

Stone knows he struggled miserably against Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Earl Mitchell last Saturday night. More often than not, he found himself getting pushed back rather than moving forward. And Stone didn't need to review the tape to recognize how poorly he played.

"Just the lapses in technique," Stone said. "I felt like that's everything we've focused on and harped on. And when you don't go out there and translate to the field, those are the things that irritate you. That's why you have to get back and just continue to work at it even harder."

Stone found himself working with the second team during Monday's practice coming off the bad outing during which he contributed to Matt Ryan being sacked three times. Mike Person, who started training camp as the first-team left guard, was back in the same position ahead of Stone.

"We've been moving around all camp, so I'm not bothered or anything like that," Stone said. "Wherever they need me at, that's where I'm going. ... We're all out here grinding. Wherever you're needed, that's where you go."

The game of musical chairs between Stone and Person is symbolic of what unfolded along the line this entire preseason. Monday's first-team lineup consisted of left tackle Tyler Polumbus, left guard Person, center Joe Hawley, right guard Chris Chester and right tackle Ryan Schraeder. Left tackle Jake Matthews, the anchor of the line, was sidelined with a back injury.

With Matthews sidelined and Polumbus banging his knee against Miami, one has to wonder if it's time for the Falcons to make a move on veteran free-agent tackle Jake Long, who previously worked out for the team. Falcons coach Dan Quinn was asked if Long remains under consideration.

"Yes, somebody we still have talked about, for sure," Quinn said. "And a guy we have lots of regard for. Not a topic that we've discussed with him in that length. ... I'll wait to see where we're at in regard to the injuries before we move forward in that way in terms of future players."

The tackle situation -- provided Matthews is not out long -- seems like a minimal concern compared to the uncertainty along the interior. Hawley continues to experience soreness after having the ACL and MCL repaired in his right knee. He didn't even start the last game at Miami, with Person getting the nod at center. It appears the Falcons are preparing Person to start at center if Hawley's knee keeps him from enduring the regular-season grind. Then again, Quinn likes what he has seen from Person as a run-blocker.

"No. 1, in the run game, he can really come off the ball," Quinn said of Person. "He's got that versatility where it's center and guard, and then where are the best combinations that go with that? But we've been impressed by Mike just in terms of his ability to play both spots, the toughness in the run game."

And what about Hawley's knee?

"Honestly, this last game, it started feeling back to normal," Hawley said. "You know, I think it's just a process. I'm ready to go. It's strong; it's stable. It's just dealing with the little soreness. Hopefully, it gets better as the year goes on. I think that's what's going to happen."

And what about Jon Asamoah, who started at right guard before being demoted in favor of Chris Chester? The 6-foot-4-inch, 305-pound veteran has the size to give the Falcons what they need as a pass-protector, but Asamoah does not have the footwork or lateral quickness to excel in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's outside zone-blocking scheme. Asamoah is unlikely to regain a starting role, although he has handled it all with class.

"I play for myself, my family, and then the guys in that room," Asamoah said. "I love those guys. When guys are doing well, I just support them. And I just try to be ready."

With Chester apparently set at right guard, why hasn't Asamoah gotten a look on the left side?

"I'll do whatever they ask me to do," he said. "But I've been on the right a long time."

We'll see how the Falcons line up in the practices leading up the Sept. 14 opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. Thursday's final preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens is unlikely to reveal much, particularly if Matthews is out of the lineup and the starters are rested.