One of the fun things that I like to do around this time of year is predicting outcomes that I’ll be ridiculed for later, so let’s keep that tradition alive with today’s countdown to training camp. While these are season predictions, I’m betting you’ll see the noble beginnings of each of these play out in training camp. Here’s five to look for in 2016.
- Brooks Reed will play the strong side on third downs. I dunno, the Falcons seem to want to move Reed around, but when healthy he’s also the team’s best option on third down and in the nickel, when Vic Beasley will presumably play a lot of defensive end. Where he lines up in training camp will bear watching.
- Derrick Shelby won’t pull down more than six sacks, but he will be terrific. Shelby’s quietly the second-biggest signing of the year behind Alex Mack, in my humble opinion, even if Mohamed Sanu has gotten far more attention. Shelby is going to be a force against the run and should be good for 4-6 sacks, though I don’t want to go crazy. You should see Shelby impressing in training camp.
- Matt Ryan will throw 30 touchdowns. Yes, let’s go ahead and commit to the bounceback, given that he threw just 21 touchdowns last year. Look for him to look sharper in training camp, which won’t be difficult after 2015.
- The young guys will be edged out early along the offensive line, with the exception of Wes Schweitzer. I like some of the UDFAs and youngish signings the Falcons made this offseason, but as I’ll mention in more detail later today, I fully expect the Falcons to have Schweitzer and an otherwise extremely veteran line. You should see that play out in the first couple of weeks of training camp, between cuts and the early pecking order.
- This team is going to be improved. We’ve harped on this because there’s no reason to believe the Falcons are the same or worse than they were during that up and down, shaky first season under Dan Quinn’s baleful gaze. It’s going to be evident in training camp, no matter what happens in the actual season.