The Falcons came into 2016 with a starting lineup that appeared more set than most years. I think most of us looked at NFL.com’s mid-May projection and found ourselves nodding along, at least.
Things do change in the NFL, especially with OTAs, training camp, and two preseason games to consider, but the Falcons’ starting lineup we saw way back then still looks pretty sharp. You can tell us whether you think that says a lot about the team’s depth and level of competition, or whether they have enough legitimate starters that there’s fewer positions to quibble with.
After reviewing that old guess, though, here’s the potential changes.
Right now, Andy Levitre and Chris Chester are hardly locks for starting jobs. Levitre is still the odds-on favorite for left guard, but the Falcons haven’t seen a lot of Chester just yet, and Mike Person has looked solid at least as a potential starting option. Pencil Person in at right guard.
Ra’Shede Hageman has moved over to defensive end, which means Tyson Jackson will be the starter here. Derrick Shelby and Vic Beasley at defensive end hasn’t changed much, though of course we should expect to see Beasley at linebacker some of the time, and Hageman looks like a reserve end at this point.
It will depend on whether the Falcons are in the nickel or a 4-3 base set, but either way, it’s hard to image linebacker stacking up the way the NFL.com projection had it when the regular season rolls around. Philip Wheeler hasn’t sniffed a starting spot in weeks, with Sean Weatherspoon and De’Vondre Campbell competing to start on the weak side, and Brooks Reed is going to cede quite a few snaps to Beasley on the strong side, assuming Reed is the starter.
Otherwise, though, the projection does hold up. The Falcons sank serious money into Alex Mack and Mohamed Sanu, making them obvious starters, and they’ve got a secondary with some very obvious starters, even if there’s legitimate depth questions after that. The Falcons may still throw us a couple of curveballs before all is said and done, but I think we have a pretty good idea of who 18-19 of the 22 starters will be.