We're very close to mandatory minicamp, when everyone will be in the building and the Falcons will begin their offseason program in earnest. As we consider what lies ahead, there are three questions ping ponging their way through my head at the moment.
1) Will they be healthy?
This is a big, unpleasant question I was hoping we wouldn't have to ask. With the exception of Antone Smith, who is back on the practice field, the Falcons' list of injured players in January is the same list we're staring at now. William Moore is limited, Sam Baker isn't on the field, Jake Matthews is still recovering, and Joe Hawley isn't back yet. That's not exactly an encouraging list.
It sounds like all of these guys will be ready for the season, but you can't help but worry when we're in June and some of these players seem like they're a long ways away. Given how dependent the offense is going to be on an athletic, healthy offensive line, the series of injuries there has to give us pause.
Ultimately, if Hawley, Moore and Matthews are back and ready to go, the Falcons should be okay. The answer to the question above appears to be "yes" in time for the season, but this will be worth monitoring.
2) Where's Julio Jones' new contract?
This one isn't a major concern right yet, but if I'm being hones, I expected the Falcons to be leaking that they were close to an extension right now. Instead, we have relative quiet.
Not everyone is convinced that a massive contract for the team's best wide receiver is in Atlanta's best interest, but I am. Jones is simply a game-changing player, and as the Falcons transition to more of a run-featuring short passing attack, Jones' ability to stretch the field and dominate opposing cornerbacks will continue to be incredibly valuable. The Falcons are aware of just how great Jones is, and there's very little reason to believe a deal won't eventually get done.
It's just that Jones' contract is up after this season, and if he makes it to free agency some other team will probably blow the Falcons entirely out of the water on an offer, leaving them without arguably their best player. It's a far-fetched scenario, but I'm a nervous guy, and I'll feel better once this is over.
3) Just what is this defense going to look like?
You've read dozens of articles here and elsewhere about the scheme Dan Quinn, Richard Smith and Raheem Morris are likely to run, and we all like to think we have a pretty good grasp on how playing time will unfold. The truth is that we can't be sure just yet what's going to happen.
If the team uses Vic Beasley heavily at LEO and linebacker, if they start Ra'Shede Hageman, if they pull quality performances out of players like Adrian Clayborn and O'Brien Schofield, that front seven should be decent at the very least. Beyond that, though, much is in flux and will remain so throughout the summer. That's the nature of adding a new coaching staff and new players to the mix.
What questions are you hoping to have answered soon?