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Updating Falcons position battles as we move through training camp

Uncertainty reigns at right tackle, edge rusher as preseason slate begins

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Atlanta Falcons offensive tackle Kaleb McGary #76 during the AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Falcons Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, on Monday August 9, 2021. (Photo by Kara Durrette/Atlanta Falcons)

The Falcons are nearly two weeks into training camp at this point, with a few starting spots unsettled as we head into the first preseason game Friday against Tennessee.

Things have changed since we started our position battles tracker shortly after camp started, with some completely shut down and others losing or gaining competitors.

The center spot, for example, has been completely taken off the board. Matt Hennessy essentially has that starting gig wrapped, with something dramatic required to change that opinion. We've seen others work their way into the conversation with a solid camp, which is always fun.

Let's take a look at where these battles stand with the three-game preseason about to begin.

Right tackle

Kaleb McGary vs. Jalen Mayfield vs. Willie Beavers

Kaleb McGary came off the physically unable to perform list on Monday and will be worked back into full participation over time. He didn't lose ground on a starting job he has owned the last two years while out nursing an injury. He actually might've walked into a better position.

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Jalen Mayfield gave way to Willie Beavers on the first unit on Saturday and again on Monday. Who knows how long that will last. It seems unlikely Beavers will be your starter in Week 1, especially if McGary is solid and looks poised to improve his consistency over recent seasons. The former first-round NFL draft pick has the best shot to be the guy, especially as Mayfield acclimates to the NFL game.

Cornerback

Fabian Moreau vs. Kendall Sheffield vs. Isaiah Oliver

The outside cornerback spot opposite A.J. Terrell seems largely settled. Fabian Moreau has taken virtually every snap with the first unit and has fared well. He hasn't made many spectacular plays but hasn't made major blunders either, providing a steady element to a previously questionable spot.

His place seems even more secure with Kendall Sheffield now sidelined by injury, even though it's not considered serious. Isaiah Oliver has been the primary option working in the slot. Chris Williamson has flashed during camp, and possesses good size and cover ability, but probably isn't seriously challenging Moreau at this stage.

Moreau and Oliver could end up with significant roles if the status quo is maintained, though Sheffield will surely try to disrupt that once he's healthy again.

Edge rusher

Dante Fowler vs. Jacob Tuioti-Mariner vs. Steven Means vs. Adetokunbo Ogundeji

Let's be clear: All of these guys are going to play. The defensive front should employ a significant rotation to keep pass rushers fresh, though two of them will be considered starters. The designation matters less than total snap count and impact.

It seems likely that Dante Fowler is one of those frontline players, clearly the most dynamic talent in the bunch, even with his need to earn a role in 2021. Jacob Tuioti-Mariner has been as much of a first-team fixture as anyone, including Fowler's first practice back on Monday. Ogundeji has emerged during camp as option off the edge but will have to keep positive momentum with solid preseason outings. Means is always an option here as well should favorites falter.

Left guard

Josh Andrews vs. Drew Dalman

Josh Andrews was originally thought to be battling Jalen Mayfield at left guard and may end up doing so before the preseason's out. That's not happening right now, with Mayfield still focused on playing tackle. Fourth-round rookie Drew Dalman has gotten some cracks at the first-unit left guard job and has fared well.

This still seems like Andrews' job to lose at this point, with Dalman setting up for a role as swing interior lineman. He could work his way in with a strong showing in games and the upcoming intersquad practices against Miami.

Safety

Erik Harris vs. Duron Harmon vs. Richie Grant vs. Jaylinn Hawkins

It seems even more likelty that Harris and Harmon are starters to start the season. We're seeing Grant work more with the second unit as he transitions to the NFL and works through some rookie mistakes. Hawkins is still a factor here as well. Both young guys could emerge down the road, and could play in certain sets with an extra defensive back.

Right now, however, it continues to be the veterans largely running the show.

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