Now that week three of the pre-season is in the books, it's time to start looking at training camp battles a little more closely.
If you were looking for separation in the Dolphins game, you didn't get much of it. The muddled fifth receiver battle seems to have a new eye-opening twist each week, but I can't say it's easy to read the tea leaves and say who's going to win. Ditto the right guard battle, where Peter Konz got first-team snaps this week and didn't exactly leap off the field and into our hearts.
Still, there's more clarity than there was a few weeks ago, and I think it's worth drilling down to see who has the edge where. If you'll follow me after the jump, we'll get the deep dive going.
Last night, I tweeted out the following:
Fifth Receiver Battle
There are so many competitors for this gig, and so few of them have done anything. Kevin Cone's either done little or been out with an injury thus far, Drew Davis has done very little and James Rodgers had a disastrous game against the Bengals. The only two that have shown flashes of anything in pre-season action have been Tim Toone, who had a nice touchdown reception from Dominique Davis last night, and Marcus Jackson, who has had one stellar game and has otherwise been a ghost.
It's impossible to choose one now, but keep a close eye on Toone. He's bounced around the NFL since being Mr. Irrelevant a few years ago, but he's shown decent skills as a receiver and looked solid as a punt returner last night. Versatility may well win this gig.
Right Guard Combat
This battle boils down to Peter Konz versus Garrett Reynolds. Like the receiver battle, it may be too close to call.
I'd actually say that Reynolds has played better in pre-season thus far, but that's expected considering that Konz is a rookie learning the position at the NFL level. Konz did look decent to me on Friday night.
Ultimately, it's going to come down to whether the Falcons believe Reynolds has grown into the role or if they want to get the higher-upside Konz started right now. Either way, I'm mildly leery of this position. Maybe more than mildly.
Defensive End Rotation
Lawrence Sidbury came into the pre-season knowing he had to earn his way onto the team. He has, without question.
Given that Jonathan Massaquoi will be around as a developmental prospect, the guy who might actually be on the bubble if Cliff Matthews. I like Matthews and he did recover a fumble last night, but the Falcons probably aren't going to be inclined to keep six defensive ends. That probably means Matthews is on the out.
This is another tough one. The Falcons have three slam dunk starters at cornerback and a muddle behind them. Chris Owens has been hurt throughout the pre-season, Dominique Franks has been fairly atrocious—he was fine in coverage last night, but weak in the return game—and guys like Marty Markett haven't done a ton. Some combination of Owens, Franks and Darrin Walls will probably make the final roster. At talonpoint, I'd probably say Owens and Walls.
And I would be wrong, as Walls was cut. This post was written early yesterday. My bad!
I don't really want to see Jacquizz Rodgers returning kicks, but it's hard to argue against him. He had one return for 40 yards last night, and he was the only guy getting a chance there. It's entirely possible that Rodgers has already won the job, but given the dearth of kicks to go around it's hard to tell.
Punt returner is pretty muddled, too. Dominique Franks hasn't exactly lit the world on fire back there, and the Falcons gave Tim Toone two chances last night and saw him do fairly well with them. The Falcons could have locked Franks in, they could be seeing if Toone could handle it or they could just be trotting those guys out there and awarding it to someone else entirely. Like I said, a muddle.
Who do you think wins these particular battles?