The second day of Falcons minicamp, built by The Home Depot, was held on Wednesday in Flowery Branch. Fans filled the hill next to the practice fields to watch the drills.
For many players, how they perform at XFINITY Training Camp significantly alters their career trajectories. A strong impression during these practices can go a long way, as Falcons veterans Paul Worrilow, James Stone and Nate Stupar, among others, can attest; similarly, an underwhelming August can be devastating. Here are five players who have a lot to gain — and potentially lose — from camp, which begins on Friday, July 31.
By arriving at offseason workouts in fantastic shape, Ra'Shede Hageman has reignited much of the excitement that surrounded him at the 2014 Draft. However, as defensive line coach Bryan Cox said, OTAs and minicamps are essentially "gym class"; in other words, Atlanta's staff can't glean much from those practices and will reserve judgment until pads go on. The refined and matured Hageman needs to show he's improved at camp, where the competition at defensive tackle will surely heat up.
It was surprising to see Ricardo Allen, a cornerback drafted in the fifth round in 2014, relegated to the practice squad as a rookie. Likewise, his recent ascension at free safety has been an unexpected twist. The former Purdue Boilermaker received lots of snaps at FS during offseason workouts and, for the most part, looked solid — especially towards the end, when he saw time on the first-team defense.
Allen's successful move to a new position is encouraging, but he has a long way to go before locking down a starting job. Veteran FS Charles Godfrey will get plenty of snaps throughout camp; Kemal Ishmael, though a strong safety by nature, could make a push, as well.
Brought on board last year to play defensive end in the 3-4, Tyson Jackson has had to make several adjustments to fit into Atlanta's new 4-3 formation. One such adjustment is his weight: Needing to trim down, the former Chief has hired a personal chef and appears thinner than he did in 2014. Based on June minicamp, Jackson's speed has improved — question is, by how much? If the 29-year-old is considerably quicker off the snap, he may be a crucial asset to the Falcons' defense.
Ryan Schraeder's emergence in 2014 was imperative to the Falcons' offensive front. As many O-linemen went down with injuries, the undrafted free agent signing became a reliable force during his second NFL campaign, and in the process became the favorite to man right tackle in 2015. Lamar Holmes' foot injury has thinned the competition at RT, but that doesn't mean Schraeder, 27, is guaranteed to start. He still needs to show offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and offensive line coach Chris Morgan he can adjust to the new system. And, perhaps most importantly, he has to retain the trust of Matt Ryan.
As Tony Gonzalez's career came to a close, Levine Toilolo, his 22-year-old replacement, found himself in a difficult situation. The young tight end faced a lot of adversity last season; now, with considerably more competition than in 2014, he can't afford to have a bad training camp. Now 23, Toilolo may not be a huge threat in the passing game moving forward, but he can make his presence felt as a blocking TE. At 6-foot-8 and 265 pounds, he certainly has the frame to succeed in that regard.