Training camp is usually a wellspring of redemption stories, promising futures and scrappy underdogs trying to make an impression. Out of the ensuing tangled web of articles, radio screaming matches and heartwarming camp videos comes a handful of stories that will endure.
Now that training camp is over, it's time to sort through everything and find out which players and their encouraging/discouraging/mehcouraging stories will last. After going through my archives and catching up on AJC and Official Site articles, I feel confident that I've got a list worth checking out.
After the jump, five player stories that will reverberate well into the seasonLove And Peria Jerry
Everyone loves Peria Jerry. They may not be comparing him to a summer day, but they're certainly comparing him to a starting defensive tackle again.
Jerry has finally rebounded from his knee surgery and looks much quicker and more deadly this pre-season. He's still struggling to turn his exceptional performances in practice into equally awesome ones in actual games, but he's shown signs of being the pass-rushing force he was supposed to be coming out of college.
What does that mean for the Falcons? I'll tell you what. It means that their defensive rotation tackle should be stronger and their interior pass rush much more potent. Cross your fingers that Jerry will, to quote a certain marketing slogan, rise up when we hit Week One.
Harry Douglas Returns
Douglas was in much the same boat as Jerry. Recovering from a leg injury that sapped his speed, Douglas missed a season and just didn't look like the same guy in 2010.
Now it appears he's made a full recovery. If Friday's pre-season game against the Jaguars was any indication, a healthy Douglas is going to do a lot for the explosiveness of the offense that Mike Smith keeps talking about. He reeled in a pass that he took for a 76 yard touchdown, and looked quick and deadly while doing so.
HD Digital is just as key to the offense this season as Julio Jones, who for all his seeming miracles (more on that in a minute!) is still a rookie receiver. Douglas will open up the field for Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Kerry Meier and so on and so forth. While Jerry's defensive impact could be greater, I'm even more excited about Douglas than I am about Peria.
Julio Jones Is The Real Deal
So many rookie wide receivers come into the league and make about as much impact as a tiny plush meteor. With the lockout robbing valuable weeks of practice from rooks, it seemed likely Julio Jones would be struggling to catch up, too.
Of course, that didn't happen, because Julio Jones is Herakles reincarnated. I'm struck constantly by humble Jones is, and it's helped him immensely. He reported to player-organized practices with no chip on his shoulder and developed an immediate rapport with Matt Ryan. When asked what his expectations are in terms of catches, Jones says he'd be happy blocking if they asked him to. He's a Thomas Dimitroff-Mike Smith era Falcon through-and-through.
So my expectations are high. Jones has looked great all throughout training camp and the pre-season, and figures to get better as the coaching staff immerses him in the system. Big things ahead.
Dominique Franks Emerges
Okay, so he's emerging and rubbing his eyes, and maybe yawning a little. But he's still emerging.
Falcons fans are worried sick over the nickel cornerback job this off-season, given that the options are Franks, Chris Owens and cornerback/safety hybrid Rafael Bush. All are young, all are relatively unproven and all have had their lapses this off-season.
Out of that group, Franks alone has shown me anything impressive. Whether he ultimately wins the nickel job or not, he has the brightest future of the three. He's very athletic, always knows where his man is (even if he does have a disconcerting habit of playing off of him...but how much of that is Van Gorder?) and hits like a train. While he's bound to have some growing pains, Franks is the best bet for the nickel.
He'll be worth watching as we move forward for any number of reasons. If you're among the panicking crowd...well, try not to.
Sean Weatherspoon Is Ready
When Weatherspoon was plagued by nagging injuries last year, more than a few fans groaned. At that point, it was starting to look like the Falcons were snakebitten when it came to first round picks over the last couple of years. Yeah, I know. It's a small sample size.
But 'Spoon has been electric thus far. Fully recovered and with a year in the system under his belt, he's been all over the field in practice and in games. The Falcons have a lot of talent at linebacker, but no one is as athletic as 'Spoon. If he takes a leap forward this season, the linebacking corps becomes elite. Period.
Offer up other stories, if you would.