Training camp is approaching for the Falcons as rookies report on July 19 and veterans on July 26. The first practice at Flowery Branch will be on July 27. This has been quite the eventful offseason for the organization — extending Jake Matthews and Grady Jarrett, trading away Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley‘s suspension, and drafting a potential franchise quarterback in Desmond Ridder. Here are the biggest storylines surrounding the team as training camp approaches.
The Falcons are headed for a training camp battle between Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder. The veteran certainly has to be the favorite, given the experience he has within Arthur Smith’s offense and against NFL defenses. However, reports coming out of camp suggest Ridder shouldn’t be written off. Smith has stated he’s not having typical rookie struggles; Charles London also added how players, even veterans, are gravitating toward the Cinncianti product’s leadership. My money would be on Mariota, outside of injuries, but Ridder is going to make it interesting.
Deion Jones Status
The former LSU Tiger has experienced quite a fall from grace. Once considered one of the premier players at his position, Jones continues to mail in forgettable seasons. There was mass speculation earlier this offseason about the Falcons trading or cutting him, but a shoulder surgery has halted those conversations. The salary relief from a trade is attractive, while releasing Jones doesn’t offer much. It’ll be intriguing to see how the Falcons approach his status as training camp commences.
Avery Williams Position Change
This is one of the more exciting stories surrounding the Falcons in years. Drafted as a special teams ace, Williams quickly established himself as a key cog in the team’s third phase. He was electric with the ball in his hands, fielding punts and kickoffs, but he wasn’t exactly inspiring when he played sparingly on defense. The change from corner to running back should be beneficial to Williams, who possesses a similar skillset as Darren Sproles. Arthur Smith has proved to be creative with his usage of skill players, so the former Boise State Bronco could have an expanded role in the offense this season.
Left Guard Competition
I’m actually excited to see Jalen Mayfield in 2022. He was objectively one of the worst offensive linemen in football last season, and the team did little to upgrade. They drafted Justin Shaffer and signed Germain Ifedi and Elijah Wilkinson to compete at left guard, so there is some semblance of competition. I’m eager to see how Mayfield’s development is progressing because if it’s marginal, it’ll be a massive stain on Terry Fontenot’s resume.
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