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Why OTAs and minicamp can't tell you how good the Falcons will be next season

We've heard a lot about the Falcons over these past few weeks, but take it all with a grain of salt.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

We get lots of questions this time of year about specific players, how they're fitting into the scheme and the ways in which we see the team improving through OTAs and minicamp. Now that the offseason training is completed, let's objectively look at where the team is as they look toward minicamp and what we realistically learned about the Falcons over the past few weeks.

The Falcons, and every other team around the league, have a bunch of new players on the roster who need to learn the scheme and get up to speed -- NFL speed, in the case of the rookies. The adjustment to the speed of this game is a big one, and one thing we learned is that the rookies are, by and large adapting to it.

What we haven't learned is whether or not the pass rush or offensive line will be improved when the season begins. There's honestly no way to assess the performance of these units, the effectiveness of which involves a lot of contact and being able to either disrupt the passer or protect the passer at full speed. When players are working on the practice field in shorts and helmets and adhering to the rules governing contact established by the CBA, it's impossible for any observer to get a handle on whether these units have improved or project how they might perform next season.

Until we get into training camp and see some padded practices, and also preseason, when they face actual competition and are moving at full speed, we won't have any sort of real sense of the ways this team has or has not improved. Even then, contact in practice is not the same as game contact, and the schemes for each team in preseason are typically pretty generic and vanilla, so we have to take that with a grain of salt, also.

So when you ask questions like, "Will the Falcons be able to rush the passer this season?" or "Will the offensive line really protect Matt Ryan this season?" and the answers you get are vague, it's because there's really no way to know at this point.

We'll just have to wait for the season, which frankly cannot come soon enough.