Veteran minicamp, scheduled for next week, is like Christmas in June for Falcons fans. Finally, we'll get a firsthand look at the 2013 Falcons, and we can begin to see how the individual pieces are coming together for the new season. It's kind of a big deal.
Before trying to determine what we should be watching for next week, it's helpful to understand what's even permitted at veteran minicamp. Under the terms of the current CBA, one mandatory veteran minicamp is permitted during the offseason training period. (A voluntary veteran minicamp is permitted early in the offseason, prior to the draft.) The team is permitted to require rookies to participate alongside the veterans, because there's no limit to the rookie offseason activities they can incorporate. There's no contact allowed, the players are allowed on the field for a maximum of 3.5 hours on each of three days, and while two-a-days are allowed on two of the three days of minicamp, the second practice is limited to walk through instruction only.
With that in mind, while we're all curious about how the offensive line is shaking out, and the defensive line and linebackers in particular on defense, those are pretty difficult to determine in a no-contact situation. We will, however, be able to make a lot of assumptions based on which guys are getting reps with first team units.
From all accounts, running back Steven Jackson's work ethic, focus and team-first attitude make him a perfect fit in Atlanta, but fans want to know where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. This will be our first opportunity to see Jackson in action with Atlanta's offense, and it will be interesting to see how Dirk Koetter is utilizing him, even in these early stages of offensive preparation.
Atlanta's other big-name free agent acquisition, Osi Umenyiora, is also of particular interest, although it is more difficult to get a sense of the defensive line's performance with no contact permitted. We can, however, get a sense of how Umenyiora is fitting in with the team, and how comfortable he looks in drills will be a good indication of how easily he's picking up Mike Nolan's defense.
Many Falcons fans are rooting for the success of linebacker Brian Banks, and will be eager to see how he's fitting into the defense. And everybody will want to know how Atlanta's rookies are adapting to their roles, particularly cornerback Desmond Trufant, who is expected to start opposite Asante Samuel. It's always fun to keep an eye on the undrafted free agents to see who might emerge as a viable possibility to make the 53 man roster.
In general, it will be interesting to see how the team is gelling, and what their chemistry is like. There was a big difference from 2011 to 2012, as far as the general tone of practices with the influence of new offensive and defensive coordinators, and you can learn a lot about what to expect from the team by observing how they interact with each other and their coaches on the field during minicamp.
If there are other players or positions that I should keep an eye on during minicamp, please let me know, and I will be sure to address it in daily recaps next week. What are you most interested in seeing from the Falcons during veteran minicamp? Discuss!