Mandatory minicamp is over, which leaves us to consider yet another football-less void between now and training camp. At least minicamp gave us a little gristle to chew on in the month ahead.
Here are four items worth considering, involving players who figure to have major and/or interesting roles on this football team if they can carry their minicamp momentum into the summer.
- Vic Beasley will get every opportunity to be a monster. Dan Quinn talked about "featuring" Beasley at LEO, which is the kind of thing you say when you're really fired up about your first round pick. As they should be.
This is Beasley's ideal role as a rookie because he'll be lined up wide and should be able to use his natural speed and pass rushing ability to fight his way toward the quarterback, and he won't be an integral player against the run. It's obvious from some of his glowing early praise that Quinn won't hesitate to use Beasley early and often, and given that he's easily the pass rusher with the most potential, that's welcome.
It's even more encouraging when you consider this tidbit from Vaughn McClure:
Schofield showed great speed off the edge throughout minicamp. Should be a nice rush combo with Vic Beasley and Schofield.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) June 18, 2015
- Devonta Freeman may force his way into a huge role. I've said all along that I expect Tevin Coleman to be the de facto starter, at the very least, but I wasn't real clear on what Freeman's role would be in this offense. If he can maintain the pace he's going at, I may have to eat crow on that prediction. As a well-rounded back who can catch the ball well, block competently and run in this zone blocking scheme, he's likely to have a major role even if Coleman gets more carries in the end.
This is good news for the team, by the way. It may be hell for fantasy owners, but I prefer a backfield that features multiple competent choices rather than one bell cow and some lackluster options, particularly if that bell cow can't do amazing work on 20 carries a game. The Falcons simply don't have that option in the first place, and Freeman, Coleman and Antone Smith figure to do together what one guy couldn't alone.
- Julio Jones is a one man receiving corps. It's fair to say Kyle Shanahan has never had a Julio Jones before. He's had the simply amazing Andre Johnson and the gifted Josh Gordon, yes, but Johnson wins in different ways than Julio, who is simply too big and too fast for most defensive backs in the NFL. Gordon unfortunately has derailed his own career.
That's why it's worth noting that the Falcons plan to move Julio all over the formation and try to take advantage of mismatches. This isn't turning Julio into a decoy, though it will certainly help Roddy White, Leonard Hankerson and Justin Hardy find opportunities where they might not exist otherwise. It's about putting Jones in a lot of favorable situations and getting him the ball in unexpected ways, maximizing his ability to wreak his own special blend of havoc.
- Seriously, Ricardo Allen. I'm preparing for a heaping helping of crow with Allen. The Falcons drafted him in the fifth round a year ago, cut him and socked him on the practice squad, which made it all too easy to write him off for the immediate future. A position change later, he's arguably the frontrunner for the free safety gig.
This is the power of a new coaching staff. Even if Allen doesn't win the job outright, he should be a strong contender for it in 2016, and the coaching staff has clearly found a better fit for him than Mike Smith and company managed just a year ago. There are lots of unfair knocks on the past regime, but as Allen has the potential to prove, there was something to the idea that they didn't always know where to put their young talent in order to help the team succeed.
Keep a real close eye on Allen and see what he becomes. I'm not betting against him any longer.