Shared from the 5/14/2017 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution eEdition


Rookie Harlow ready to compete

Fourth-round pick is making move from tackle to guard.


Falcons rookie offensive lineman Sean Harlow, who likely will be competing to start at right guard, goes through stretching drills during rookie minicamp this weekend in Flowery Branch. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM


Fourth round (136rd overall), OG, Oregon State Height: 6 feet 4 Weight: 305 pounds Arm length: 32 inches Hand size: 9½ inches 40-yard dash: 5.15 seconds Bench press: 26 reps of 225 pounds Vertical jump: 30½ inches Broad jump: 8 feet, 9 inches Three-cone drill: 8.16 seconds Overview: The San Clemente, Calif., native started 37 games for the Beavers, including 23 at left tackle and 14 at right tackle. He will be asked to play guard for the Falcons. He knows Falcons running back Terron Ward from his days at Oregon State and Falcons tight end Austin Hooper. His father, Pat Harlow, was the 11th pick in the 1991 draft and played for the Patriots and the Raiders from 1991-98. He’s a relentless hustle player who needs to refine his techniques for his move to guard. He graduated with a degree in human development and family sciences in December. He was a team captain. He helped the Beavers set a single-season rushing record with 5.2 yards per carry. He was named to the Pac-12 All-Conference second team.

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons will return 10 of 11 starters from a record-setting offense that carried the team to its second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

Can a rookie seamlessly fill the one opening?

Sean Harlow started making his case during the team’s rookie minicamp this weekend. The Falcons have little experience among the holdover candidates at right guard, and Harlow, a fourth-round draft pick, will get his chance to show he can handle the job.

The Falcons will get a better handle on Harlow’s ability when they hold full-squad, full-contact practices during training camp. But practicing in shorts with limited contact allowed Harlow to get a taste of the demands placed on linemen in the Falcons’ outside-zone blocking scheme.

The system requires linemen to frequently run horizontally to spread the defense and create cutback creases for backs, thus placing a premium on their conditioning.

“That’s a habit a lot of us need to start learning,” Harlow said. “A lot of us are used to ‘drive-stepping’ and playing with a base. It’s a little different having to run and really just move and ‘go, go, go’ and cover people up. But I’m excited to learn new techniques and new philosophies and try to earn my spot.”

It’s not a completely new concept for Harlow. Over his final two seasons at Oregon State he played for coach Gary Andersen, who installed a spread-option attack that used zone-blocking techniques.

But the Falcons’ rushing plays were outside zone a vast majority of the time under coordinator Kyle Shanahan the past two seasons and helped set up an excellent play-action passing game. New coordinator Steve Sarkisian also plans to use those plays as a staple of the offense.

Harlow will compete with Wes Schweitzer and Ben Garland at right guard. They have the advantage of time in the system — Schweitzer was a sixth-round pick in 2016 and Garland was signed from the practice squad in December 2015. But Schweitzer has played zero NFL snaps and Garland played 42 offensive snaps last season.

Harlow played offensive tackle at Oregon State. His size (6 feet 4, 303 pounds) and athletic ability aren’t ideal for playing tackle in the NFL, but he could be effective inside.

Harlow didn’t stand out during the agility drills at the combine. But his 40-yard dash time of 5.15 seconds was eighth best among offensive linemen, and his 30.5-inch vertical jump tied for third best.

By comparison, Schweitzer reportedly ran the 40 in 5.15 seconds and jumped 27½ inches at the San Jose State pro day in 2016. Garland reportedly posted a time of 5.07 seconds and jumped 35 inches at the Air Force pro day in 2010.

Harlow said switching positions would require an adjustment period but he welcomes the move inside.

“It’s a little bit easier, in a sense,” he said. “It fits my body type better. Six-four tackle doesn’t really happen. Playing inside from (the minicamp) experience was a little bit easier. I have a lot to work on. I will get better at it day-by-day. It’s just quicker, I guess.”

Harlow can call on his father, Pat, for advice. The elder Harlow played offensive tackle for eight seasons in the NFL from 1991-98 after starring at USC.

Sean Harlow said his father has always helped him with football but didn’t offer any specific advice for the beginning of his NFL career.

“I think I get the gist of what to do, how to do it,” Harlow said. “I’ve been around enough guys that have been there and done that. It’s a great room we are about to be in with a lot of veteran guys. I’m sure just watching them and emulating them will definitely help us catch up and be true professionals.”

The Falcons have an opening at right guard after Chris Chester retired following the season. The offensive line played well as a unit in 2016, but Chester was the weakest link, especially in pass blocking. The four returning starters are veterans, led by Pro Bowl center Alex Mack.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Harlow is a quick study.

“He had very good questions as far as (football) I.Q. goes,” Quinn said. “He was ready to go to the next level on some things (the first) night and (Friday). He was another one that came in with the intent of how hard he could go for it. I was very encouraged by him.”

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