FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The second day of the Atlanta Falcons' rookie minicamp was Day 3 for Matthew Bergeron's career experience at left guard.
The Falcons can only hope Bergeron learns his new position quickly.
Bergeron was a tackle at Syracuse before the Falcons traded up in the second round to make him the No. 38 overall selection in last month's NFL draft. Based on his one day at guard at the Senior Bowl, Bergeron knew the Falcons had interest on him moving inside.
The trade with Indianapolis on the second day of the draft was a strong indication the Falcons expect Bergeron to compete immediately for the starting job. The left guard position is open after Elijah Wilkinson signed as a free agent with Arizona.
“I don’t put pressure on myself,” Bergeron said of the expectation to play or start as a rookie. “I’m going to give 110% every day and see where that takes me.”
The Falcons are banking on the 6-foot-5, 318-pound Bergeron having the athleticism to make up for his inexperience at the position.
“I think I’m picking it up well,” Bergeron said after practice Saturday. He said the most difficult part of the transition from tackle is the quickness required to play guard.
“It’s definitely faster,” Bergeron said. “Everything is on top of you. ... At guard everything is happening right now. Guys, one step and they’re on you. You’ve got to move faster with your hands, faster with your feet.”
Jovaughn Gwynn, a seventh-round draft pick out of South Carolina, may compete at center and guard. When the veterans join the rookies for minicamp and training camp this summer, Matt Hennessey, Justin Shaffer and Jalen Mayfield will join the competition at left guard. Shaffer, a 2022 draft pick, is participating in the rookie minicamp.
Bergeron said he's looking forward to learning from the veterans, including starting right guard Chris Lindstrom.
“I’ve exchanged a few messages with Chris,” Bergeron said. “He just congratulated me and told me we’ll get to work and I told him I’m excited to learn from him, one of the best guards in the league.”
Bergeron impressed Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith with his physical style of play, especially as a run blocker, at Syracuse. Smith said Bergeron is “wired the right way.”
Bergeron said he believes he'll be a good fit in the Falcons' run-first offense. The team's commitment to the running game was confirmed with the addition of first-round draft pick Bijan Robinson, a running back from Texas.
“I feel like I’m physical and aggressive and that’s the mindset of this team, running the football, and I’m excited to be a part of it,” Bergeron said.
Bergeron said Robinson is “really humble” and is “a great dude.”
“We bonded quickly,” Bergeron said. “I’m just excited to go out there and block for him, whether in practice or a game.”