We’ve been through OTAs, minicamps, training camp, and three preseason games. By now, we should have a good idea of who is winning every key position battle on the roster, but the truth is that we don’t.
That has less to do with how players have performed at those positions than Dan Quinn and company playing things close to the best, but the good news is that we are going to know very soon. We also have our own strong gut feelings, which we’ll share with you now.
Fourth wide receiver
Winner: Aldrick Robinson
This one’s almost certain. Robinson has put up big numbers in preseason, has shown himself to be a capable deep threat for Atlanta, and his speed gives Atlanta another vertical target to work with, given that neither Mohamed Sanu or Justin Hardy bring that element to the table. He should easily beat out the likes of J.D. McKissic, Devin Fuller, and Eric Weems for the gig, with those players and a few others competing for the fifth spot in the team’s receiving corps.
Likely Winner: Deion Jones
Jones has had an uneven summer, but his speed is evident and he’s shown himself to be a capable tackler. Paul Worrilow hasn’t shown the kind of improvement I felt he’d need to in order to snatch the job away from the second round rookie, so growing pains and all, I’d expect Jones to be there.
Likely Winner: De’Vondre Campbell
Ever since Campbell was drafted, he’s had the feel of a player that Dan Quinn and the staff fell in love with. I was hesitant to elevate him into the starting lineup in any projections, though, because of his reputation for having lousy instincts and needing coaching, and because the Falcons had Sean Weatherspoon and Philip Wheeler, two players ideally suited to compete for a stopgap starting gig.
I’m ready to call this one, though. ‘Spoon has had his moments, Wheeler has been buried with the reserves, and Campbell has looked every bit as quick and hard-hitting as he was reputed to be, and he’s looked further along the learning curve on defense than I think most of us would have anticipated. He’s going to have some terrible moments this year, I’m sure, but he could be a huge part of this team’s future at linebacker, and it looks like he’s going to get his shot right away.
Likely Winner: Chris Chester
The Falcons went ahead and gave Wes Schweitzer a chance to run away with this job, giving him starter’s snaps in both the Browns and Dolphins game. He was solid in the Browns game and rough in the Dolphins game, getting penalized and pushed around in the way you’d expect a sixth round rookie to. That should be enough to give the job to Chester, the other logical contender for the gig and a steady enough veteran presence. It doesn’t look like Ben Garland or Mike Person is going to wrest the job away.
Schweitzer will be in line for another crack at the starting job in 2017, though.
Possible Winner: Akeem King
I don’t know what to do with this one. With Jalen Collins out, someone has to serve as the team’s nominal third cornerback, and thus far no one has stood out to the point where it seems logical to call the battle. King was the favorite heading into the summer and likely remains the favorite after Brian Poole and C.J. Goodwin didn’t truly impress, though Poole has done enough to get playing time. This one’s the one I still truly don’t have a strong feeling about.