There is no training camp practice today on account of Friday Night Lights, so we're left to reflect on the last week and reach what conclusions we might before we dive in to a week that will feature more practices and a game against the Titans.
Remember that sweeping conclusions are foolish this early, so I'm not awarding anyone starting jobs or even roster spots today. Instead, I want to look at who has stood out thus far, where we should be focusing our attention and what we've been able to glean from a week's worth of training camp practices.
Because I love bulleted lists, let's roll with a couple right now.
- The starting running back job could legitimately come down to health. Both Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman have looked sharp when they're on the field, but Coleman's hamstring injury could slow him down for a couple of weeks, and Freeman is dealing with ****. More on this later.
- Leonard Hankerson is legitimately impressive, and setting aside the question of whether he'll start, his addition greatly improves the receiving corps. With Justin Hardy also looking sharp as a rookie wideout, this corps goes four deep, and five if you count the situationally dangerous Devin Hester. With Bernard Reedy once again standing out in training camp, it's going to be a tough position for the coaches to cut down, which is a nice change of pace.
- Levine Toilolo is clearly going to fight hard for his job. Had this post come a few days ago, I would have felt pretty confident in saying he was firmly on the bubble, but he's flashing some nice receiving skills this week and remains an intriguing player, so he may well put this one to rest early.
- The offensive line is looking more physical and aggressive than they have in quite some time, which is an excellent early sign, even if that depth is still scary. The Falcons are clearly trying to figure out the best configuration for those reserves, because Tyler Polumbus, Mike Person and Chris Chester have all grabbed time at left guard, and Demarcus Love has gotten a longish look at tackle. Whatever it takes for this team to have a quality line is fine by me, but this is a team that knows it has to largely make the best of what it has.
- Ricardo Allen is simply running away with the free safety job. He looks athletic, comfortable at the position and aggressive enough to get Dan Quinn fired up. The only thing that could slow his momentum at this point is if he scuffles in game action, so watch for him to clear that hurdle.
- The team is parceling out plenty of first team reps to different linebackers. Paul Worrilow is the prohibitive favorite to win the starting middle linebacker job, but Marquis Spruill and Allen Bradford are getting looks there as the team tries to figure out what they have for depth. For what it's worth, both of those players have looked good in practice thus far.
- The team took a few one-year gambles, and Adrian Clayborn is looking like an excellent one thus far. He looks strong, competent and ready to man defensive end for the team, and with any luck he'll have a stellar year and return on a new deal for 2016 and beyond.
- As Jeanna noted the other day, the team is working out of the nickel a lot in red zone drills. We don't know how regularly that will translate in games, but if the team is confident in their new-look defensive line, it would behoove them to get more of their talented defensive backs on the game when everything tightens up for the offense.
- Oh, and speaking of talented defensive backs, Jalen Collins doesn't look ready for primetime just yet. He could just be having a Desmond Trufant rookie training camp which will give way to a stellar rookie season, but temper your expectations. Robert Alford has flashed his skill and athleticism all camp and is the favorite to win the outside job opposite Trufant, at least initially.
- We've learned that we're not really going to know whether Vic Beasley and Ra'Shede Hageman are as amazing as they look until they have to do work against another team. Even in padded practices, the raw physicality and ability stands out, but it'll take tilts against the Titans and others to show us whether what we've seen thus far is real or not. It's always worth re-learning that lesson.