PHILADELPHIA -- Dan Reeves promised a shakeup on the offensive line all week leading up to Sunday night's game at Philadelphia. Nobody, however, could expect just how much he changed things.
Rookies Travis Claridge and Michael Thompson both worked with the starting unit against the Eagles, marking only the second time in franchise history two rookie draft picks started together on the offensive line.
Also, Chris Banks, who was claimed off waivers less than a week before the season opener, started at left guard.
Claridge, the team's second round pick from Southern Cal, started at right guard, while Thompson, the team's fourth round pick from Tennessee State, started at right tackle. Thompson played high school football at Windsor Forest High in Savannah.
Ephraim Salaam, who had started every game at right tackle in the first two years of his National Football League career, was de-activated Friday and wasn't eligible to play. He has been hampered since training camp with a sore right knee.
Claridge has started twice at right tackle this year, but Sunday's game marked the first time he moved to guard on the first unit.
Not only was Thompson getting his first starting assignment in the NFL, it was the first time he's even been activated to the 49-man roster.
The last time two rookie draft picks started along the offensive line was Dec. 18, 1988, when right tackle Houston Hoover and right guard Stan Clayton worked against New Orleans. Atlanta lost that game 10-9.
The only other time two rookies started was when the tandem of right guard R.C. Thielemann and right tackle Warren Bryant started in the 1977 season opener on Sept. 18 against the Los Angeles Rams. The Falcons won that game 17-6.
The only starters from last week's game against St. Louis that were in the lineup were center Calvin Collins and left tackle Bob Whitfield .
The new lineup got off to a bad start when Thompson was hit with a false start penalty when Eagles defensive end Mike Mamula jumped across the line of scrimmage. The penalty put the Falcons in a third-and-10 situation. One incomplete pass later, Atlanta punted the ball away.
The shakeup obviously required some demotions. Bob Halen and Anthony Redmon, who had started the first fourth games at left guard and right guard, respectively, were relegated to back-up roles.
A couple of Atlanta Falcons didn't enjoy a homecoming of sorts during Sunday night's game at Veterans Stadium.
Wide receivers Brian Finneran and Eugene Baker both have roots in the Pennsylvania area, but neither were dressed for the game. The Falcons de-activated both players before the kickoff to get to the 49-man limit.
Finneran not only played at nearby Villanova, he spent three months with the Eagles a year ago.
Baker is from Monroeville, Pa.
Tight end Dallas Neil, quarterback Doug Johnson, running back Ron Rivers and linebacker Corey Atkins joined Salaam, Baker, Finneran and Redmon as Atlanta's non-active players.
Several Philadelphia players have ties to the Atlanta area.
Running back Duce Staley is from South Carolina, free safety Brian Dawkins is from Clemson, free safety Jason Bostic is from Georgia Tech and running back Stanley Pritchett is from South Carolina.
Reach Don Coble at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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