We’ve had a day to digest mandatory minicamp and what it meant for the Falcons. While the short answer is and always will be not much, there’s still some things to unpack here, and we will do so now. ewf
Here’s three takeaways we can keep with us as we navigate the June-to-July football desert.
#1: Bulking up, speeding up
One of the most tired story lines of the offseason is so and so is in the best shape of his life. That doesn’t mean we can let what looks like legitimate improvement or focused efforts to bulk up pass without comment.
- Tevin Coleman added 10-15 pounds and looks extremely muscle-bound. While I worry a little bit about a loss of speed, Coleman is going to be a more physical, (hopefully) balanced runner, allowing him to carry a larger and perhaps more productive load.
- Dontari Poe is going to be playing much lighter than he did in recent years, hoping to be more effective as a pass rusher and a little quicker on his feet in general. He and Grady Jarrett could be forces.
- Keanu Neal says he’s faster than a year ago. If you’re a receiver who has to see him in the open field, that’s pretty awful news.
And so on. This team can only improve so much after a historic 2016, but the defense in particular has plenty of room to grow, and even small improvements could make a difference.
#2: A healthy roster
I’ve noted this before, but I’m going to note it again and again regardless: Injury is the only thing that I think can truly derail the Atlanta Falcons in 2017.
Fortunately for Atlanta, they figure to start training camp as healthy as a team can be, especially a team that suffered numerous long-term injuries in 2016. Desmond Trufant, Adrian Clayborn, Derrick Shelby, and others all seem to be on track to be on the field in camp, and while there will probably be a setback or two along the way because this is not a just universe, it shouldn’t be enough for us to worry just yet.
They’ll just need to maintain that health as long as possible to make this another successful season. Forget the Super Bowl hangover, I’m nervous about guys getting hurt.
#3: The defense looks sharp early
You’ve got the inevitable long touchdown passes from UDFA to UDFA going over an established player’s head, sure. Last offseason we had Kyle Shanahan picking off Matt Ryan, and that certainly didn’t make a massive difference in how the season turned out.
Let’s go ahead and give the defense its due. These guys look ready to play, Kemal Ishmael seems to be adjusting well to his move to linebacker, Poe looks like a huge (yeah, yeah) addition, and we haven’t even had a look at Takkarist McKinley as a Falcon yet. There’s a lot of football ahead, but I’m very bullish on the prospect of a breakout season for the D.