Tim Mazetti

Fourteen Days To Training Camp And 14 Battles To Watch

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https://www.thefalcoholic.com/2018/7/13/17563166/there-are-14-days-until-falcons-training-camp-so-here-are-14-battles-to-watch

 

It should be a lively summer, even with most roster battles already settled.

By Dave Choate Jul 13, 2018, 8:00am EDT
We’re nearly to training camp. As of today, we’re just two weeks away from July 26, when the Falcons open up their summer of practices and position battles in the sweltering sun.

As you know, this roster is pretty settled, with the team returning something along the lines of 19 out of 22 starters from the 2017 squad. That doesn’t mean that the remaining battles for starting jobs will be boring, or that players bitterly fighting (not literally) for roster spots won’t provide some intrigue. With that in mind, here are 14 battles to keep an eye on when camp does finally, mercifully open up.

Matt Schaub vs. Kurt Benkert

Schaub’s the heavy favorite here, but the Falcons may actually have something in Benkert, a project with a great arm and flashes of legitimately brilliant play in college. If Benkert picks things up quickly, there’s a small but non-zero chance he could knock off Schaub, and even those slim odds bear watching.

Luke McNitt vs. Daniel Marx vs. Ricky Ortiz

It’s a three man battle for the fullback position, featuring two undrafted free agents and a former undrafted free agent. All three are young players, and while McNitt’s my early pick, it’s the only legitimately wide open battle on this list. While fullbacks should have a relatively small role in this Falcons offense, adding another capable blocker to the ground game is key, and this one might go down to the roster cutting wire.

Calvin Ridley vs. Mohamed Sanu

Who is the true #2 in 2018? Sanu would seem the favorite, given his reliability and mastery of the offense in 2016 and 2017, but Ridley has sky-high potential and comes into the league as a very polished prospect. Both will get a ton of playing time and both will line up opposite Julio Jones at time, but Ridley has an opportunity to be the #2 in more than name if he can make a strong early push.

Marvin Hall vs. Russell Gage vs. Reggie Davis and so on

It’s very possible that the Falcons will only have one roster spot behind Julio Jones, Ridley, Sanu and Justin Hardy. If that’s the case, it’s going to be a free-for-all between all the young, interesting players the Falcons have assembled at the receiver position. Hall showed some promise a year ago, Davis shone in preseason 2017 (despite a couple of errors), and Gage was drafted this year with early special teams value very much in mind. Gage is the favorite as a recent, talked-up draft selection, but Hall and Davis aren’t going to go quietly, and one of them should make the roster outright if the Falcons elect to keep six receivers.

Eric Saubert vs. Logan Paulsen

Can Saubert block well? If the answer to that question is yes, after a 2017 where he received few opportunities to show anything, he might bump Paulsen down to the nominal third tight end. Saubert has loads of promise, and it would be very nice to see the Falcons trot out two tight ends who can actually consistently catch the football. It’ll all come down to how much improvement Saubert shows in his second summer.

Ty Sambrailo vs. Austin Pasztor vs. Matt Gono

Swing tackle matters. Keeping your starting tackles healthy for a full 16 game slate is no easy task, regardless of how durable Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder have been in the past, and Atlanta has been way too content to trot out the likes of Jeremy Trueblood in years past. Sambrailo was merely whelming in the role a year ago and should receive a legitimate challenge from a now-healthy Pasztor and intriguing UDFA Gono for the gig.

Brandon Fusco vs. Wes Schweitzer

The Falcons aren’t simply going to hand Fusco the job, though he’s the easy favorite to win right guard duties. Schweitzer did start 18 games a year ago with (again) whelming play and some quality stretches, and it’s conceivable that he could push hard for the gig again after doing so in 2016 and winning it outright in 2017. The Falcons are going to have a very capable veteran backup at the position, no matter who wins.

Sean Harlow vs. roster limits

We named Harlow as a player to watch in training camp for a couple of reasons. He has athleticism and drew enough interest from Atlanta to become their 2017 fourth round selection, for one thing, and he’s a legitimate candidate to get cut, for another. The Falcons have plenty of capable options on the interior of the offensive line, and Harlow will need to shine to hang on and hopefully make a push for a real role in 2019.

Jack Crawford vs. Terrell McClain vs. Deadrin Senat

The Falcons will rotate heavily at defensive tackle, but the nominal starter next to Grady Jarrett has not been decided yet. Crawford’s returning from an injury but offers some pass rushing chops, McClain has a track record as an early down asset, and Senat looks like he could become at least a solid starter in the NFL in relatively short order with his strength and history of collegiate production. It’ll be interesting to see if Senat can seize the job outright from his veteran colleagues, even if he’ll cede plenty of snaps to them along the way.

J’Terius Jones vs. Garrison Smith

The Falcons seem likely to carry nine defensive linemen, given their proclivity for rotation and how tight a four man rotation at defensive end and defensive tackle feels. What we don’t know is whether that player is going to be chiefly a DE (and here I’m thinking of Jones) or a DT (and here I’m thinking of Smith). There are other players in the mix here, but Smith’s a veteran with some upside and Jones stuck all last year after an impressive summer, and one of them seems likely to emerge as that ninth player.

Blidi Wreh-Wilson vs. Justin Bethel and roster limits

Wreh-Wilson was an asset in limited opportunities in 2017, but now the depth chart at corner is ridiculously deep. He’ll likely need to beat out Bethel, a special teams ace, or play so well that the Falcons seriously consider carrying six cornerbacks (plus Damontae Kazee, a nominal safety who can play some corner as well). It’s a tall order.

Damontae Kazee vs. Ron Parker

If you want to put three safeties on the field, are you throwing Kazee or Parker out there first? It may prove to be a moot question, with the Falcons electing to use both in turn, but it seems likelier that one player will emerge if Dan Quinn and Marquand Manuel want to tinker with some interesting defensive sets. Kazee flashed real physicality in 2017 and he has some legitimate coverage chops as a part-time cornerback, but Parker has been an average-to-above average starting safety for a while now, with a somewhat disappointing 2017 depressing his market value to the point where Atlanta was able to sign him on the cheap. I like Parker’s chances, but man is this group of defensive backs strong.

Isaiah Oliver vs. Brian Poole

Another battle that is a battle in name only, but still bears watching. Poole has been one of the team’s most effective blitzing defensive backs and a wonderfully physical corner over the past two seasons, and as good as Oliver promises to be early, the veteran isn’t simply going to roll over and cede the job. It’s possible, though not probable, that Poole fends Oliver off and the rookie comes off the bench early on.

The field of potential returners vs. themselves

There are too many players to list here who could be in the mix, but they include Hall, Davis, Gage, Justin Hardy, Oliver, and maybe even Parker. The fact that the Falcons haven’t chained themselves to a veteran option here means a surprising choice could emerge, and that player will ultimately likely be the fifth or sixth option at either wide receiver or cornerback. It truly seems wide open at the moment.

What other battles will you be watching?

Edited by Tim Mazetti

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2 minutes ago, Tim Mazetti said:

This is just amazing after all those years of failure in finding players.

I would have put up duke riley vs foye for lb spot. If saubert can legit turn into a well rounded te than watch out. I have my doubts about him but he def has the skills.

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13 minutes ago, jdawg4876 said:

I would have put up duke riley vs foye for lb spot. If saubert can legit turn into a well rounded te than watch out. I have my doubts about him but he def has the skills.

Good point. I have a hunch that the Falcon's have seen enough in Riley this past year to think he is the man for the job. Otherwise I would have expected a veteran WLB to have been signed. Still might happen after TC cuts, though.

I might be jumping the shark,....er Sark, but I would like to see Hoop as an H-Back on occasion, although I am not sure of his running from the line of scrimmage acumen, like Riggs, or Riggins was, but he is a mean one..

Edited by Tim Mazetti
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8 minutes ago, Tim Mazetti said:

Good point. I have a hunch that the Falcon's have seen enough in Riley this past year to think he is the man for the job. Otherwise I would have expected a veteran WLB to have been signed. Still might happen after TC cuts, though.

I might be jumping the shark,....er Sark, but I would like to see Hoop as an H-Back on occasion, although I am not sure of his running from the line of scrimmage acumen, like Riggs, or Riggins was, but he is a mean one..

I know I harp on the o line but I legit think our 2018 back ups could have all started and been better than what we trotted out there in 2013. here were our starters

 

lt- lamar holmes

lg- justin blalock

c- peter konzs

rg- garrett renyolds

rt- jermey trueblood

 

lt- either ty sambrillo or austin pasztor would have been better

lg- blalock was still decent, bc we will probably only carry 4 o line back ups id leave justin alone

c- id take ben garland over konzs any day

rg- either wes/fusco would be better than old garrett lol

rt- once again either ty or austin would smoke mr trueblood lol.

 

once again all back ups that would have started for us in 2013. we went 4-12 that yr not just bc of the oline but bc of tg's age and the fact that julio was hurt and the defense was terrible, but with that o line I do think we could have won another 2 or 3 games and went at least 6-10

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31 minutes ago, Tim Mazetti said:

This is just amazing after all those years of failure in finding players.

I wouldn’t even say it was a failure. It was what I’ve always said and now TD finally admitted it in his most recent interview. They had know clear cut outlook on the team and finding FITS to work in the system. I’ve argued tooth and nail that was the issue because I always said we were forcing square pegs into Round holes. Quinn say down with TD and have him a CLEAR picture of the system and the TYPE of players he likes at certain positions. That was the failure of you will. Failure to draft system fits. And to tell the truth I never understood what Smith’s types were. You knew from the door with Quinn. 

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2 minutes ago, TheFatboi said:

And to tell the truth I never understood what Smith’s types were. You knew from the door with Quinn

Yessir, I believe that was (Is.) the case.

But for decades this team wallowed in mediocrity and worse.

What about those relationships between GM/Coaches/Owners prior to Blank saving the franchise by buying it from Rankin Smith?

I know about Reeves/Glanville et. al..

This to me is a sign that the team was run by amateurs prior to Blank buying the team. And to your point. Coach Smith was not the visionary that DQ is.

Dam I cannot believe these last three years. Gotta be fantasy land for us old timers.

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2 minutes ago, TheFatboi said:

I wouldn’t even say it was a failure. It was what I’ve always said and now TD finally admitted it in his most recent interview. They had know clear cut outlook on the team and finding FITS to work in the system. I’ve argued tooth and nail that was the issue because I always said we were forcing square pegs into Round holes. Quinn say down with TD and have him a CLEAR picture of the system and the TYPE of players he likes at certain positions. That was the failure of you will. Failure to draft system fits. And to tell the truth I never understood what Smith’s types were. You knew from the door with Quinn. 

I think td and smitty did have a clear identity at first in that they both wanted team leaders and church boys to lead us out of the petrino/vick era. they got extremely lucky getting matt ryan and turner. they started out with an above avg o line, and roddy white's football light had come on the yr before. the defense was always bend but dont break and run the ball to kill the clock. I think by 2010 to 2011 is where they split paths and td was shown to be right, looking at career trajectory. td helped get us to a super bowl while smitty's far superior defensive talent that he has had with the bucs is dead last in ypg giving up 378 yds , dead last in sacks last yr with 22 and tied as the 9th worst team in ppg at allowing about 24 pts per game (all 2017 stats). meanwhile the falcons were in the 25 spot with only allowing 19.7 ppg, 13th spot with 39 sacks, and 24th with how many yds we gave up 318 yds per game.

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14 minutes ago, jdawg4876 said:

I think td and smitty did have a clear identity at first in that they both wanted team leaders and church boys to lead us out of the petrino/vick era. they got extremely lucky getting matt ryan and turner. they started out with an above avg o line, and roddy white's football light had come on the yr before. the defense was always bend but dont break and run the ball to kill the clock. I think by 2010 to 2011 is where they split paths and td was shown to be right, looking at career trajectory. td helped get us to a super bowl while smitty's far superior defensive talent that he has had with the bucs is dead last in ypg giving up 378 yds , dead last in sacks last yr with 22 and tied as the 9th worst team in ppg at allowing about 24 pts per game (all 2017 stats). meanwhile the falcons were in the 25 spot with only allowing 19.7 ppg, 13th spot with 39 sacks, and 24th with how many yds we gave up 318 yds per game.

That’s the character of the team but TD never had a clear cut idea of the type of DE’s, DT’s etc...make the system work. You can still get boy scouts and team leaders as long as they fit the system. 

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6 minutes ago, TheFatboi said:

That’s the character of the team but TD never had a clear cut idea of the type of DE’s, DT’s etc...make the system work. You can still get boy scouts and team leaders as long as they fit the system. 

true we went from a traditional bend but dont break defense that broke a lot under bian....

Image result for brian vangorder falcons gif

 

to a mike nolan defense where he wanted some kind of 4-3, 3-4 hybrid. I dont think nolan and smitty were ever fully on the same page and as a gm that had to be hard to try and go out and get players for a wishy washy scheme that nobody was fully committed to.

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21 minutes ago, TheFatboi said:

That’s the character of the team but TD never had a clear cut idea of the type of DE’s, DT’s etc...make the system work. You can still get boy scouts and team leaders as long as they fit the system. 

ANNNNNNNND they have. This is going to be great.

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Really interested in Matt Gono an outsider to make it for sure.

Also interested to see if they use Tru vs smaller slot receivers and use the speed and length of Oliver and Alford outside.

The DB picture is the most interesting battle in my eyes I think we have a lot of depth there.Bethel makes the roster for sure his value on teams and ability to play safety and corner makes him a synch in my eyes.

Gage to me is in that same boat his position versatility makes him a good choice.I think for Davis and or Hall to make the team they have to offer return skills if they don't being down the depth chart I don't see the value in keeping them.

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34 minutes ago, kiwifalcon said:

I think for Davis and or Hall to make the team they have to offer return skills if they don't being down the depth chart I don't see the value in keeping them.

Interesting, is it not, that those WRs may start or be valuable backups on a different team?

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seems like they are not giving sanu much credit. with any decent rec other than gabriel or anybody they had last year. Sanu should see more balls and open looks with ridley in there as well as JJ

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I agree Sanu real talk has been ballin when called on  but JJ has the well deserved rep and CR is the new flavor of the month. I would go into battle with Sanu any day. I think we should have a nice Practice squad.

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This team has the roster to go all the way......will they execute at a high level though? will JJ be a cancer?  It would be awesome to win a SB in our own stadium and be they first team to do it.

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Schaub needs to be cut now

wow we’re gonna cut some good players

people don’t like Hardy but his spot is safe? Really should keep Hall, Davis, and Gage - hard to make a cut there. 

Sanu and Ridley will co-exist just fine

I really hope Senat grabs the job and never lets go. Same with Oliver. 

Deepest secondary in the league by a mile. Good luck throwing.

Getting Saukraut going would be amazing.

FB is going to be better Bc it can’t get worse

OL has a ton of depth now with starter quality backups  

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The talent... just Daymn.  I can't wait to see our nickle sets.   I really think that Cambell is so versatile in coverage or getting after the passer that he will be a beast this season.  Without writing an essay... the different looks we can do with this much talent is scary.  Talent... everywhere. 

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11 hours ago, anygivensunday11 said:

What? THE F? I have never seen a coach run on the field and make a play.

 

Playcalling, situational awareness....you know, just imagine you have the ball 1st and ten from the opponent's 22 yard line, with say, an 8-pt lead and about 4 minutes left...and your coaches somehow screw it up. 

That's what I'm talking about.

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