clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Falcons minicamp 2016: Updating three key position battles

New, comments

What's happening at right guard, middle linebacker, and weakside linebacker?

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Before minicamp began, we identified three of the most compelling roster battles to watch over the three days and into training camp. We're pleased to say we saw enough to update you on all three.

Here goes.

Right guard

Chris Chester figures to be the favorite here when he's healthy. He wasn't stellar in 2015 by any stretch of the imagination, but he was solid, he knows the offense, and his competition isn't exactly inspiring.

That said, the Falcons took a long look at rookie Wes Schweitzer over these three days of minicamp, and they're likely not done taking that look. Schweitzer is the one guy on the roster signed long enough to be a long-term option at the position, Kyle Shanahan's scheme can make any old guard look decent, and the Falcons liked Schweitzer enough to pass up on players the rest of us might have preferred in the sixth round. Sure, it's a bit of a stretch, but it's not a huge stretch.

Tom Compton mixed in at right guard some, too, and Mike Person figures to be the mix before all is said and done.

Expect this battle to come down to Person (if he is indeed going to stick at guard), Chester, and Schweitzer.

Middle linebacker

Deion Jones has bulked up a bit and got an early look at the starting job, as anticipated, but this one is far from settled. Jones' athleticism and range are not in question, but his ability to handle coverage duties, be an effective player against the run, and adjust to the NFL game will be until he shows us they shouldn't be. Worrilow, as noted before, has rarely been an above average starter during the last three seasons, but he's got experience on his side and is still young enough to turn a corner.

It's essentially down to Jones or Worrilow, though, so this is the least messy of these three battles. I consider Jones the favorite.

Weakside linebacker

I've had Philip Wheeler penciled in as the starter here for a while now. He fared reasonably well a year ago, has the speed the team has talked about, and seems like the best short term option out of a mix of otherwise unproven and injury-prone players. Ah, but these things are rarely linear.

There's Sean Weatherspoon, for one. 'Spoon was a very capable starter for a while until injuries derailed his career, and a return to form (or anything close to it) would put him in the conversation at the position. It's rookie De'Vondre Campbell that has stood out already, though, with the athletic ability we all heard about and a good early grasp on what Dan Quinn and company are preaching on defense. Out of all the players the Falcons picked up this offseason, Campbell might be the most intriguing, because there's certainly more upside here than his draft status would suggest, but we're not remotely sure whether he'll realize it.

I'll say it now: If Campbell can show improved instincts and pick up this playbook quickly, he might win this thing. I'd love to see it happen.

Who do you have winning these three roster battles?