With training camp in full swing, I thought it would be a prime time to talk a little bit about what training camp can and cannot teach us.
As fans hungry like the wolf for a little information about our teams, we're prone to taking every positive piece of news and every mistake along the way as tantamount to a final verdict on a player's worth. On the other side of the equation are the skeptics, who insist nothing that happens before Week 1 matters at all.
I lean more toward the latter than the former, but there's still learning to be done here. After the jump, a look at what we can and cannot reasonably expect to learn from Atlanta Falcons training camp.
What We Can
- Who looks to have a leg up in training camp battles. We don't call them training camp battles because they sit around and sip Gatorade while debating economics, but because some battles will take shape. Based on players look in terms of physicality and athleticism, how quickly they pick up the playbook and how they do against their fellow Falcons, they can gain a significant edge on their competitors. Look for the offensive line to start to take shape by the beginning of pre-season.
- How healthy are the banged-up players? We won't get to see Corey Peters in action, but Lamar Holmes will see his first real action. After enduring years of up-and-down play, at least partially due to injury, we'll get to see whether Peria Jerry, Sam Baker, Kerry Meier and others have it in them to seize a job and run with it.
- How aggressive will the coaching staff be? It's actually easier to tell in training camp than pre-season, when teams deliberately keep their scheming vanilla to avoid giving opposing squads any idea of what they'll be up to in the regular season. Just by keeping an eye on the types of drills being run and how aggressive players are being, we'll get a (very) rudimentary idea of what they'll be up to.
- In general, who looks good. There's a long way to go between now and the first game of the season, but that doesn't mean players can't impress early. It may not win all of them a starting job or even a roster spot, but there's a camp hero or two from every year who winds up making a splash down the line.
What We Can't
- What the offense and defense will look like in 2012. General aggression level is one thing, but it's hard to fret over what Mike Nolan and Dirk Koetter may be up to based on what amounts to practice. We won't really have a clear idea until the season starts, so we'll have to be patient a while longer.
- Who will actually win the jobs. Just because a rookie undrafted free agent has an impressive camp doesn't mean he's vaulting past John Abraham on the depth chart. It would be a huge mistake to assume anything more than some clarification of the training camp battles.
- Who will hit the practice squad. Hell, we usually guess wrong even after pre-season action. This is a team that has their own internal set of priorities that never seem to match our own.
- Finally, how the Falcons will fare in 2012. It's way too easy to see a few lackluster practices—and, eventually, a poor pre-season—and start panicking. In the past four years, all those middling off-season programs have meant little, with the Falcons cruising to winning seasons all four years and into the playoffs in three of them, albeit exiting in the first round every time.
Training camp can tell us a lot about individual players, but it won't tell us much about the team. Good to remember that.
What will you be keeping your eyes on?