When the Falcons return to Flowery Branch for XFINITY® Atlanta Falcons Training Camp, competitions will be taking place at nearly every spot across the roster. As coach Dan Quinn explained at minicamp, however, certain positions will be worth extra attention come July.
One such position is the offensive line. Although four starting spots appear to be locked up, the developing battle at right guard should be hard-fought. Chris Chester, the starter last season, will be pushed by Mike Person, Tom Compton and rookie Wes Schweitzer.
And there will be plenty of players — many of whom are being cross-trained to improve their versatility — fighting for backup jobs.
"That group has totally put the work in and it shows so for them there's going to be some battles along the offensive line spot," Quinn said last week. "I've been really pleased with that group. I've seen the work that they're putting in and how hard they're going for it. There's a real connection amongst them and we're trying to make that line of scrimmage just every year in the front of our thinking. That offensive line group is putting it out."
Another position to monitor is cornerback. With Jalen Collins suspended for the first four regular season games, someone else will have an opportunity to earn important snaps — especially during nickel defense when Robert Alford slides inside.
What's compelling about this area is how many intriguing options the Falcons have at their disposal. Akeem King, a seventh-round pick in 2015, has matured into a viable CB after spending most of his rookie campaign on the practice squad. Former wide receiver C.J. Goodwin seems to be adjusting to his new position well; The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder made two interceptions during minicamp and didn't look out of place.
Brian Poole, a teammate of Keanu Neal's at Florida, also earned some praise from Quinn. So has DeMarcus Van Dyke, the only veteran corner in this quartet, who was selected by Oakland in the third round of the 2011 draft.
If one of those four can step up and make sure Atlanta has five reliable defensive backs, the pass defense should have the talent needed to improve in 2016.
"There's been some very real competition at the corner spot," Quinn said. "We'll put them at different spots. What can they do inside? Can they play outside? And we're looking for that consistency for somebody to rise up and say, 'I can handle it all the time,' not flashes at a time. So that's the message that's been sent to them."