With Russell Athletic Training Camp only a few days away, we'll begin the march to camp with "Camp 101," a daily look at what any Falcons fan should know about the team heading into the all-important period before the season. Today, we look at five rookies, some unexpected, that will be exciting to watch as they battle for positions in training camp.
If anyone's going to Falcons training camp looking for rookies, they're likely going to begin with a search for second- and third-round picks Peter Konz and Lamar Holmes. Both young Falcons have opportunities to win valuable spots along Atlanta's offensive line and some might even expect them to, given where they were drafted. Outside of those two rookies, there are five others that will be fun to watch as they work to impress Atlanta's coaching staff.
5) LaMark Brown: After Tony Gonzalez comes two backup role players at tight end and the field is wide open. Michael Palmer has an inside track at one of them after earning a spot on last year's active roster out of camp as a college free agent. LaMark Brown, another college free agent, will look to repeat Palmer's performance from last season.
Brown has the desired size and if he can prove he's capable of holding down a spot as a block-first tight end, he's got the hands to win a job in camp. During the Falcons' rookie minicamp and full-team minicamp earlier this offseason Brown routinely made catch after catch. His performance was impressive given the situation and if he can carry that into training camp, he's got a real shot to win one of potentially three tight end spots.
4) Jerrell Harris: Almost every player that played a starting role at the University of Alabama has at least a shot at playing in the NFL because of the experience football players get in Nick Saban's pro-style football program. A two-year starter at Alabama, Harris has experience at both strong and weakside linebacker, allowing him to be a more versatile backup to starters Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas.
There's some experience at depth linebacker ahead of Harris, but if he can perform well on special teams during training camp, he has a real shot at making the team.
3) James Rodgers: The brother of Jacquizz Rodgers may soon make his own name on the Falcons roster. James Rodgers is a wide receiver, unlike his running back brother, and is part of one of the most crowded position groups on the roster. After the top four receivers for Atlanta, the position group is wide open. Rodgers is a talented player and has as good of a shot as the other five wide receivers that are playing for one of the final few receiver spots on the roster.
Like Harris, Rodgers can enhance his fortune with his performance on special teams, specifically as a returner. The former Oregon State return man was getting turns at returner along with Harry Douglas and Dominique Franks during the offseason. If he can separate himself from those two, a roster spot could be his for the taking.
2) Charles Mitchell: Drafted in the sixth-round this year, Mitchell was described by general manager Thomas Dimitroff as an excellent special teams player following the draft. To make it as a defensive back in the SEC means you must be at least alright and Mitchell impressed Dimitroff with his steady play and leadership while at Mississippi State. A starter for three of his four years in college (he played in all 12 games as a freshman), Mitchell has a real opportunity to win a backup safety job this season.
Like many of his young teammates, how he fares on special teams could make the difference for him. He was an exceptional player on special teams while in college so that experience helps him immensely in his efforts to stick around after camp.
1) Jonathan Massaquoi: Stuck in the middle of one of the toughest battles in training camp is Jonathan Massaquoi. The defensive line carries a high number of players but there's a lot of talent ahead of Massaquoi. He slimmed down after he was drafted, entering OTAs at his junior year weight, the weight he earned 13.5 sacks with at Troy. He has raw pass rushing talent with a significant burst.
That burst has already appeared on special teams. During the full-team minicamp in June, Massaquoi was a standout on special teams with his speed. If he can carry that performance into training he may be the next special teams ace-type for the Falcons, not unlike fellow defensive end Kroy Biermann.