Organized team activities begin today, and the first wave stretches through Friday. As always, there will be a million little story lines worth monitoring as we try to figure out position battles, how the new coaching staff will utilize their players and who is showing up ready to destroy Falcons' opponents in 2015. There's not much in the way of contact, though, so be wary of drawing strong conclusions from what you'll see and hear in the days ahead.
To help you sort the wheat from chaff and keep your eyes on what's truly important, I've prepared this short, four-point guide to all things Falcons OTAs. Get it.
1) Early position battles unfold
Mike Person isn't going to win the left guard job in non-contact practices, but if he can show strong athleticism and good technique, he'll certainly give himself a leg up heading into the summer. Ditto a player like Justin Hardy, who can flash soft hands and quality route-running even in non-contact practices as he attempts to win the slot receiver gig outright.
You'll see this unfolding across the board, and those early returns will give us a decent idea of who the coaching staff is watching closely at key positions like left guard, receiver, tight end and safety. It'll be months before most of those battles are decided, but any edge you can snag in late May is a meaningful edge.
2) The health of Sam Baker, Antone Smith and others
The Falcons need to figure out whether Antone Smith will be 100% in the near future, or if they need to consider keeping another back around through the summer and perhaps even fall as insurance for the dynamic back. Ditto with Sam Baker, whose future with the team hinges on his health and effectiveness over the summer.
It's not imperative that either of those guys are zipping around on the practice field just yet, but showing progress is a necessity, particularly with mandatory minicamp and training camp just around the corner. Baker may well survive the axe this year, but he's going to be an awfully expensive reserve if he can't show the Falcons something in the near future.
For everyone else, pray they avoid injuries.
3) The rookies and free agents in action
Unfortunately, we'll probably miss out on Brooks Reed, who will step into a starting role in the linebacking corps this fall so long as he's healthy. Everyone else should be out there, though, and it'll be our first real opportunity to hear breathless first-hand reports about Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett, Justin Durant and others.
Considering how many players are brand new to the team, we're going to want every indication we can get about where they're going to play and how they might fare. Again, OTAs are only so valuable in that regard, but Beasley and rookie RB Tevin Coleman should shine with their incredible speed and athleticism, at the very least.
4) Any indications of where players will play
I've alluded to this a couple of times in this piece, but OTAs usually give us our first concrete indication of where players will line up. Mike Person, for example, has been lining up as the starting left guard, and if he's still doing so in OTAs, there's some legs to the idea that he's the favorite.
Jeanna Thomas will be at OTAs and collecting comments from Dan Quinn and others, and it's very possible he'll address earlier passing comments about the free safety competition and others in more detail. That's worth keeping an eye out for.
What will you be watching for?