Falcons fans are about to get a small reprieve from the dreaded dead zone of Falcons and Football with the approaching three day mini-camp this week. Unlike OTA’s, all players are required to attend unless they have been given permission off, such as the case with Tony Gonzalez. It works out a little better for fans this year as it comes a little later than in previous years and helps break up the long drought of no football until training camp.
Also, Happy Fathers Day to all you proud fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers out there!
It seems a little unfair to draft picks that do the right thing and receive their hard-earned diplomas with their graduating class, thus miss their team’s OTA’s, and possibly fall behind in a competition to either start or move up the depth chart. But that may be the case with 1st round draft pick Desmond Trufant. Trufant has missed all of the Falcons off-season training activities because he’s been finishing his college career to earn his diploma, something not all NFL players have. It may have been wrong to even assume that just because Trufant was a first round pick that he would automatically be in pole position to grab the open spot, especially with 2012 surprise Robert McClain surely wanting to move up to starter status. In the grand scheme of things, missing OTA’s probably won’t be the end of the world for Trufant, but it surely has opened the door for guys like McClain and 2nd round pick Robert Alford to make an early move.
This is really like a #1A question to the first one. Common knowledge says that 1st round draft picks usually get penciled into an vacant starting spot on the roster, especially one the Falcons traded a 3rd round pick to move up and get. However, with Trufant missing all of the OTA’s, McClain playing more snaps at nickel back in 2012 than the middle linebacker, and 2nd round pick Robert Alford reportedly impressing in off-season training activities, it can’t be ruled out. Ultimately, it’s up to Mike Nolan and Mike Smith on who gives them the best chance to win. Even though one still has think that Trufant is the man to beat, it shouldn’t be totally ruled out that either McClain or Alford can make the jump.
Since cornerback is the position most influx, the theme continues on the questions for mini-camp. What once was the biggest issue of the off-season now is a healthy and nice problem to have. After Asante Samuel has the first spot locked up, the race is on for the next two spots. Although the 4th cornerback will likely see some time on the field, the nickel spot is essentially a starting position in Mike Nolan’s defense. As mentioned above, McClain saw more snaps than MLB Akeem Dent did in 2012. Although their will be a battle for the 5th CB slot, the main competition will see three players (Trufant, Alford, McClain) fighting for two spots. Some believe that McClain is best suited for the same nickel back spot he did so well in last season. If that holds true, the battle would seem to be between Trufant and Alford for the starting spot. For once, the Falcons have a plethora of talent and only a few spots.
With the recent news that potential talks with Richard Seymour are all but dead, the Falcons appear ready to roll with the players they have on the roster at defensive tackle. There’s certainly some quality in there, but it’s a very precarious situation. Pretty much everything needs to go right for the Falcons at DT as it currently stands. Jonathan Babineaux needs to keep up his production as he heads to the age of 32. Corey Peters must return to his pre-injury 2011 form. Peria Jerry at least must give decent production, for once in his career. Travian Robertson has been forced into action and someone on the roster must make up for the newly departed, and extremely reliable, Vance Walker. Micanor Regis is first in line to make the possible jump to the 53 man roster after spending a year on the practice squad. The two undrafted free agents who are longshots to make the roster or even the practice squad are Adam Replogle and Neal Hunyh. Finally, the wildcard is Cliff Matthews. The former Gamecock added 10-15 lbs, which would put him around 285 and more looks on the inside. It won’t be impossible to see great production from this group, but the margin for error is tiny as it currently stands.
Outside of cornerback, offensive line looks to have the most heated battles on the entire team. In fact, offensive line holds more competition than any other spot up and down the roster. A whopping 3 spots are up for grabs in one year, at least according to the coaching staff. The retirement of Todd McClure opened up the center spot that will see Peter Konz and Joe Hawley go head-to-head for the starting position. Although it’s being billed as an “open competition,” it seems like it’s Konz’s to lose. He did an admirable job at right guard as a rookie, but he was the best center in the 2012 draft and it seems to be the best fit. Matt Ryan was commenting a few days ago and was effusive in his praise for Konz and nary a word about Hawley.
The most obvious and seemingly intense battle appears to be at right tackle to replace recently released Tyson Clabo. It pits two 3rd round draft picks against one another: 2010 third rounder Mike Johnson vs. 2012 third round pick Lamar Holmes. The natural thought would be that Johnson would be vying with Garrett Reynolds for the right guard spot since guard was the main position Johnson played at Alabama. Johnson has been an enigma of sorts and most thought he would break through for a starting spot after three years, but he’s only managed one total start. As with center, one player seems to have a bit more of a lead (Holmes) than the other, but you just never know.
The final competition resides at right guard and it may not even be that much of a competition after all is said and done. Despite facing competition for his spot two years in a row, Garrett Reynolds has won the job outright for two straight seasons. His first outing didn’t go so well as he was replaced around mid-season. The former UNC man came back strong, won the job again, and played very well before injury set him out for the year. The competition seems to be the least for Reynolds of the last three campaigns. Even though it’s possible that both Hawley and Johnson could slide over and challenge Reynolds, as it stands now, it seems that only practice squad players (Phillipkeith Manley, Jacques McClendon, Harland Gunn) and one undrafted free agent (Theo Goins). Manley was rumored to be the challenger with the most threat to steal the spot, but he reportedly came in overweight and those chances seemed to take a hit. As mentioned earlier, anything can surely happen, but right now it seems as though Konz, Reynolds, and Holmes are the favorites to start on the right side of the OL.