Camp in Full Swing
Well, it’s finally here folks. The dreaded Dead Zone is over, the pads are on, and the fights are breaking out. Not necessarily that the fights are going strong, but the pure indication that Falcons Football is officially BACK!!!!! While we’re waiting on the Godfather (Seminole) to bring us his up-close view and opinions from Flowery Branch, here’s a few of the highlights from the fine Falcons beat reporter (Vaughn McClure at ESPN for those curious).
Jake Matthews as Good as Advertised
It’s music to fans ears that the Falcons #6 overall draft pick has lived up to the hype and then some already as a rookie. Yes, he hasn’t played in a live NFL game yet, but he’s held his own and then some against pretty much every player he’s faced. You also have to keep in mind that the Falcons don’t have the league’s premiere pass rushers, but he’s shown to a be a legit stud so far and even had no issue mixing it up with Kroy Biermann on Day 1.
Offense Struggling, but…………..
It’s only been 2 days of pads. Most coaches believe that the defense “should” be winning the battles early on in camp because it takes the offense longer to get into a groove than the defense. Where the offense has issues, it seems a normal progression. But when the defense is getting lit up left and right in the early days of camp, that would likely raise flags much quicker.
Nickel’s the Battle We Thought it Would Be
Everyone predicted that the fight for the nickel back position on defense (essentially considered a starter by Coach Smith) would be a good one. And it hasn’t seemed to disappoint early on. It appears that it’s a 4 way battle between Robert McClain, Javier Arenas, Josh Wilson, and rookie Ricardo Allen. McClain would seem to be the favorite, but wilson appears to be getting most of the reps so far. Not only is the nickel competition in play, there may be an odd man looking out if the Falcons carry only 5 cornerbacks.
Toughness Off to an Early Start
It should be said that fights alone should never be thought of as any indication whatsoever about how “tough” a team will be. Any fool can throw punches and get in fights. But what fans are hopeful of, and has been mentioned by a few players, is that the fights skirmishes are only a product of the fierce competition by both lines to become the driving force of grittiness and resolve for the 2014 Falcons.
Lesser Knowns and Rookies Doing Well
McClure has mentioned many names of players either thought to be on the roster bubble or just camp bodies that may get a backup position on the team. Several players have been singled out for good play thus far, including rookies Prince Shembo and Ra’Shede Hageman, as well as Lamar Holmes, Terren Jones, Malliciah Goodman, Jacques Smith, Bernard Reedy, Harland Gunn, Travian Robertson among others. Honestly, this doesn’t mean much right now, but if they keep up their effort consistently they could either snag a roster spot or earn some playing time going forward.
5th WR Spot Reedy’s to Lose?
Right now, it seems as though Bernard Reedy may carry on the long line of undrafted free agent wide receivers breaking through. The news of Drew Davis’ injury coupled with Darius Johnson apparently retiring from football has seemed to give Reedy the inside track on making the team. Nothing is in stone yet, but Reedy possesses “elite speed” according to Coach Smith and that’s one trait that can’t be taught. While Johnson and Davis were solid, they were not speed merchants. Same goes for Harry Douglas and Roddy White as well.
Can an RB “Take the Ball and Run with It?”
Really terrible pun aside, the news that Steven Jackson injured his other hamstring and will be out at least until the opener has created a golden opportunity at running back. Right now, it seems as though rookie Devonta Freeman may the biggest beneficiary. The former Seminole has drawn rave reviews thus far and he really has a chance to push the envelope. It would seem that the battle will be between Freeman and Antone Smith, who Coach Smith swears will “get his chance.” Hard to imagine Jacquizz Rodgers being the one, but you never know. Ultimately, this could be a blessing in disguise because Jackson is 31, was injured last year, and the sun could be soon setting.