We don’t yet know how the rookie class is going to fare for the Falcons, and we’re a long way from seeing them in any meaningful game action. That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been some hints here in May about how the team is planning to deploy their newly minted rooks, however.
Here, in no particular order, is what we’ve learned thus far:
- Rookie linebacker Foye Oluokun gave us a strong confirmation of what we already expected: That he’ll be a deep reserve at linebacker, but a key piece of Atlanta’s 2018 special teams. He told Will McFadden at the mothership that he intends to play on kick returns, punt returns, and kickoffs, either blocking or tackling. The fact that he then mentioned that he’d be “learning his role on defense” at the linebacker position suggests to me that he knows his role, he’s comfortable with his role, and he’s been told by Keith Armstrong that he’s going to be involved. Considering how shaky Atlanta’s special teams were in 2017, this should be a good thing.
- Calvin Ridley will be involved in special teams, too, though in a different role. Ridley figures to be one of the major players in Atlanta’s returner competition, which could also involve rookies Isaiah Oliver and Russell Gage, receivers Marvin Hall and Reggie Davis, and perhaps even Robert Alford. With his quality hands, savvy and speed, Ridley has to be considered an early favorite.
- Russell Gage is indeed going to keep getting some time at cornerback and wide receiver, with the Falcons in no particular rush to settle him down at either position. Like Oluokun, though, he’s going to be primarily a special teamer, with the team at least discussing getting him involved as a returner and certainly getting him involved as a gunner. He’s no stranger to the work, having been a special teams standout in college.
We also know that Isaiah Oliver impressed in rookie minicamp and that Deadrin Senat is going to be a big part of the defensive tackle rotation, but we don’t yet know where they’re going to play. The coming days and weeks will give us a much better idea, however.