Falcons’ Arthur Smith setting the stage for training camp heavyweight bout

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The Falcons are going to have an eventful training camp. The roster features more than a dozen new prominent faces, and there are several starting positions up for grabs; if it didn’t need any more juice, Arthur Smith is setting the stage for a heavyweight bout.

“Falcons coach Arthur Smith said it will be Rocky IV: Ledford vs. Nielsen in training camp. Offensive line vs. Defensive line.”

Casual football fans don’t quite understand how important trench play is in football, but it’s where championships are won. Ask anyone in college football what separates the Georgia’s and Alabama’s of the world from the TCU’s, and they’ll tell you the size and talent across the line of scrimmage. The same can be said at the professional level.

The NFL is a quarterback-driven, pass-happy league, but the consistent winners mostly have one thing in common — rock solid trenches. The Falcons have made it a priority.

Offensively, the line became one of the best units in football last year, even with a revolving door at left guard. And the regime wasn’t going to experiment with that continuity this offseason. They solidified the right side for the foreseeable future, inking Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary to extensions. They also went out and drafted a potential long-term solution for left guard in second-rounder Matthew Bergeron.

What’s even more impressive is the other side of the ball. The defensive line underwent a total overhaul and is by far the most improved facet of the roster. Starters from 2022 will now become rotational pieces because of the influx of talent.

Along the interior, Grady Jarrett and Ta’Quon Graham are joined by Calais Campbell, David Onyemata, and Eddie Goldman. On the edge, Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone look to take the next step in their respective developments as Lorenzo Carter returns and Bud Dupree joins the unit. It’s the deepest rotation along the front that the Falcons have had in years.

With two powerhouses in the trenches, it’s going to be an exciting training camp. The competition will be stiff as Ryan Nielsen and Dwayne Ledford‘s units square off.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire



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