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Falcons' line could undergo more change with Jake Long in mix

Jake Matthews and the Falcons' offensive line will have some new faces and new looks as the 2015 season starts. Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports

At one point during the preseason, the Atlanta Falcons seemed content to move forward with an offensive line consisting of left tackle Jake Matthews, left guard James Stone, center Joe Hawley, right guard Chris Chester, and right tackle Ryan Schraeder.

But, ... guess again.

The acquisition of veteran left guard Andy Levitre in a trade with Tennessee nixed Stone and Mike Person from the left guard mix. Then the Falcons released the veteran Hawley as he battled right knee soreness, and claimed center Gino Gradkowski off waivers from the Denver Broncos.

Finally, the Falcons opted to designate Person as the starting center ahead of Stone, with Gradkowski in the midst of joining his new team.

So, is the shuffling along the offensive line complete? Maybe not.

Coach Dan Quinn confirmed ESPN Insider Adam Schefter's report about veteran offensive tackle Jake Long coming in for a second look Thursday. Long, who has had two ACL tears in his right knee, has received medical clearance, Schefter reported.

"Really what we're looking for, we worked him out right at the start of training camp, and to see that the progress that he made during that time," Quinn said. "So that's kind of where we're headed to right now. He's another month removed from his surgery. Like I said, every chance we're going to look to address in the competition, we will. So, yeah looking forward to having him come down."

If Long impresses and shows decent lateral quickness coming off the knee issues, one has to wonder if the Falcons will consider signing Long to compete with and possibly surpass Schraeder at right tackle. Long, the No. 1 overall pick by Miami in 2008, has 96 starts in 96 career games.

Whatever unfolds with Long, the Falcons still have quite an issue on their hands. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's outside zone blocking scheme relies on the linemen working in unison, and the line shuffling hasn't really allowed the Falcons to build chemistry. Now a new face has to be incorporated into the mix in Levitre, who has experience in zone blocking from his days with the Buffalo Bills. But Levitre hasn't worked alongside Matthews and Person.

And speaking of Person, he's had much more experience at tackle and guard than he's had at center, which is a new position for him. The Falcons slowly worked him into the center mix during the preseason as Hawley struggled with his knee. Person's troubles snapping the ball were evident from the start.

"Those balls were kind of like "Wooooo,'" Person said, demonstrating how he was snapping way out of control. "I mean, it's just muscle memory and not overthinking it. I'm going to be out there every day fixing that and getting it right.

"Honestly, [chemistry] kind of comes down to me setting the table for everybody. We obviously have a new guy [Levitre]. The more we communicate with him --- I mean he's already picking up the offense like it's nothing -- but we just have to talk as a unit. And the guys that are in there, we're going to roll with. That's just the way it is."

Matthews just returned to practice from a back strain and had offseason surgery to repair a Lisfranc ligament tear in his foot, so his health will be worth monitoring throughout. The only guy who appears to be on solid ground with no injury concerns, worries about losing his starting role or having to adjust to new teammates is the veteran Chester, who played in the same system under Shanahan with the Washington Redskins.

"It's going to take a little while for everyone to kind of get to know each other," Chester said of building chemistry. "But the good things is we have quality character guys and guys that know how to be good teammates and help one another. That's going to help us. But it's going to take a little bit to get to know each other."

There's not much time to spare, with the season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night.

"They've got a lot of movement up front," Chester said of the familiar foe. "There's a lot of different looks. And you've got to really be on your stuff because they are so versatile with their front and schemes."