We've learned a lot about the 2014 Falcons in recent weeks. I've spent a lot of time in Flowery Branch watching the team develop throughout this training camp period, and here are five key things we've learned so far.
Cornerback is a position of strength for the Falcons. Both Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford are solid young cornerbacks, and the Falcons have a wealth of talent from which to choose at the nickel position as well as for backups on the final roster. Robert McClain has had a pretty good training camp, and Josh Wilson and Javier Arenas both look like they could easily earn some playing time. Rookie Ricardo Allen is a work in progress, but is definitely progressing.
Not surprisingly, the wide receiver position also is stacked with talent. The top four positions on the depth chart are probably pretty set, with Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas, and whether you like it or not, Devin Hester locked in for the final 53. Beyond that, the Falcons have Drew Davis, who's currently on the training camp PUP list, training camp standout Bernard Reedy, and players like Freddie Martino, Geraldo Boldewijn, and Tramaine Thompson, all of whom have shown potential during training camp.
We've also learned that depth at the safety position is a legitimate concern. Dwight Lowery suffering a concussion at Friday Night Lights just underscored this reality. Dezmen Southward missed a chunk of training camp because of a knee injury, and he's still very raw and not prepared to be a starter. Kemal Ishmael has strengths and seems to be progressing nicely, but Ishmael did not necessarily impress in preseason action against the Dolphins. The Falcons may need to keep an eye on the waiver wire for safety options as teams begin to whittle down their rosters.
The running game appears to be improved, even without Steven Jackson on the field, and Devonta Freeman looks like he could really be an impact player for the Falcons. Jacquizz Rodgers, Freeman, and Antone Smith have all consistently looked good in practice, and that translated into a successful ground effort against the Dolphins in the first preseason game. This is a really important improvement and addresses a glaring need the Falcons have grappled with in recent seasons.
Regardless of where you stand on the whole "toughness" situation or how tired you may be of hearing about it, we have definitely learned that there is a different tenor to the 2014 Falcons. From the additions of Bryan Cox and Mike Tice to the coaching staff, to the increased frequency of fisticuffs at camp and the readiness with which players seem to come to the defense of their teammates during practice, this is not a team that I would dare describe as "soft" at this point.
What have you learned from training camp to this point?