When evaluating players during training camp and preseason, scouts say to look for the trends. A highlight reel catch is encouraging; so is an explosive run, a bone-crunching hit, a pass that threads the needle. But those who tend to stick around are the consistent, hard-working players who take criticism in stride and regularly improve.
Someone who's been doing that for a while now is Ben Garland.
A defensive tackle-turned-offensive lineman, Garland made the 53-man roster after drawing rave reviews for his steady play at guard and center. He progressed a lot in 2015, and the Falcons look ahead to a new season, the 6-foot-5, 308-pounder is poised to be a backup whom Atlanta can trust.
"I thought Ben had a terrific training camp in terms of playing guard and playing center," head coach Dan Quinn said. "He's somebody who totally jumped out."
Garland followed up his impressive camp with a solid preseason. According to Pro Football Focus, he played 58 pass block snaps in four exhibition games, and in that time, he allowed zero sacks, one QB hit and one QB pressure. What's more, he only took one penalty in 154 total reps.
As members of a developmental staff, Falcons coaches pride themselves in giving individual attention to prospects at every level of the depth chart. Doing so helps projects like Garland maximize their abilities and become valuable contributors.
"One of the things I love about the practice squad group is that real chance to develop some guys. I think Ben Garland is a shining example of that," Quinn said. "He came in on the practice squad last year from Denver and he totally put out in terms of the effort it takes."