The Atlanta Falcons have a few quality position battles on, even though we have yet to begin training camp at this point. The question on most of our minds is who's going to win those battles, and while it's too early to make a responsible guess, it's never too early to make irresponsible ones.
1) Free safety
Winner: Ricardo Allen
This one is really early, but what the hell.
Allen is running ahead of Charles Godfrey because he's caught the coaching staff's eye and Godfrey hasn't, but this goes deeper than that. Allen offers aggression and ballhawking ability Godfrey does not, for one thing. Allen is a potential long-term solution at the position, while Godfrey's a one-year stopgap at best. And Allen's really the best fit for the position under Quinn, if all his ideal traits turn out to be as advertised.
Allen's aggression should play nicely next to William Moore and/or Kemal Ishmael, both of whom are capable of creating turnovers, helping out against the run and hitting like trains strapped to large meteors. The more I see of Allen in the role, the more I warm up to this possibility.
2) Right tackle
Winner: Ryan Schraeder
This one's easy, at this point. Tyler Polumbus simply hasn't shown much thus far and seems destined to be Jeremy Trueblood 2.0, i.e. the backup tackle you want nowhere near significant snaps. Lamar Holmes had slimmed down and looked like he'd put up a fight for the job, but now he's looking at a month or two out of action thanks to a broken foot.
Save a truly impressive summer by rookie Jake Rodgers or a free agent signing, Schraeder will start. He's a big, pretty athletic tackle who mostly played very well a year ago, and he should fit the scheme Kyle Shanahan is installing. Go ahead and pencil him in, and bear down a little bit with that lead.
3) Slot receiver
Winner: Justin Hardy
This one's based on ideal fit as much as anything else. You can put Leonard Hankerson in the slot and have him use his height, and you can bring in Roddy White and his wizardly ability to get open, and I suspect the Falcons will do a little bit of both. Hardy's the obvious choice, though.
Having the sure-handed, physical rookie in the slot helps open things up on the edges for Julio Jones, White and Hankerson, and Hardy should work well on those slant routes Ryan would like to throw more of. Pair that with the quarterback's early love for the rookie and it's not hard to understand why Hardy's the odds-on favorite to open the season as the #3 guy in the passing game.
What position battles are you projecting right now?