When you're a Falcons fan and there's months between you and actual football, you start making assumptions about what's ahead, and preemptively analyzing those assumptions. Quite often, though, we're all wrong, and here's five things we could very well be wrong about heading into 2016.
1) Devonta Freeman is going to dominate carries
I've written before about why I think this might be an unsafe assumption, but here it is again. Freeman is the more complete back than Tevin Coleman by a wide margin and will get most of the snaps and nearly all of the targets in the passing game, but his actual rushing numbers were skewed a lot by a dominant less-than-half season stretch. He's a fine runner with patience and vision, so don't get me wrong, but Coleman is faster and more dynamic, and I could see him taking 30-40% of the carries in 2016.
2) Paul Worrilow is going to lose the middle linebacker job
We've counted out Worrilow before (okay, it was mostly me), and we've been wrong every time. As an undrafted free agent, starting three straight years is mighty impressive, and Worrilow keeps doing so with a deft mix of valued leadership skills, good instincts, and a lack of competition.
This year, of course, Deion Jones should be competing with Worrilow in the middle, and the second round pick is a faster player with far greater range. He's the obvious favorite, but he's got to bulk up and learn the NFL game before he can take that gig, and it's not necessarily a lock that he will do so. Worrilow may well ride again.
3) Ricardo Allen is locked in as the starter at free safety
This is the shakiest prediction of the lot, but while Allen enjoyed a solid-to-terrific 2015, depending on your perspective and which games you're watching, I don't think we should take it for granted that he'll start at free safety this year. Keanu Neal is locked in at the other position, but solid veteran yo-yo Charles Godfrey and second year UDFA Robenson Therezie should be in the mix here.
Ultimately, Allen should win this one, but I'm just saying, keep an eye out.
4) Courtney Upshaw is playing linebacker
Upshaw has played a lot of linebacker, and on paper his fit there makes a lot of sense: He's a run-stopping force who could be a solid (at least) part-time starter on the strong side. He's got the size and skill set of a reserve defensive end, though, and that may well be where he ends up.
If Upshaw is playing defensive end, he shouldn't have a ton of trouble beating out Malliciah Goodman for a roster spot, but he could have trouble finding a lot of snaps at the position.
5) Brooks Reed won't be great
Sure, I think most of us hope he'll improve after a lousy, injury-marred 2015 season, but I think most of us have already assumed that Reed won't be more than solid this year. If he's healthy, the defensive line is as improved as it looks, and he wins a starting gig, though, I wouldn't be surprised to see Reed put up a few sacks, play some solid coverage, and stop the run effectively, living up to his contract this time around.
What are your favorite assumptions that you think we shouldn't take for granted?