The Falcons haven’t yet finished up OTAs, as they’ll continue on Thursday, but we’ve already learned a little about the team’s offseason. As is always the case with OTAs, many of these lessons will fade by the time we reach training camp, or they’ll be swept up into bigger, more interesting story lines about how Jack Crawford is dominating practices in the hot Atlanta sun or Isaiah Oliver pushing for a starting job even in a gifted cornerback group. For the moment, though, it’s worth reviewing what we know, and here are three items to consider.
Q: Are injured Falcons healthy heading into the summer?
A: Happily, yes, everyone seems to be on track. Devonta Freeman has been on the field and doing work, Jack Crawford has declared himself healthy, and Takk McKinley, Justin Hardy and Andy Levitre are all spending time with coaches and trainers. There’s not even a whiff of a suggestion that anyone’s going to be dealing with longer-than-expected recovery timetables, which puts Atlanta on track to field their full, potentially world-wrecking squad. Let’s hope it stays that way.
Q: Will Calvin Ridley get a real shot at a returner job?
This is a legitimate question because of Ridley’s potential importance to the passing game. While he’s only a rookie, Ridley comes to the league with a reputation for precise route running and quality hands, and he figures to be (at worst) the team’s fourth or fifth leading receiver in an offense with a ton of targets to go around. If he’s as good as advertised, he has a chance to a major year one contributor, and the Falcons wouldn’t necessarily want to muck that up by having him on returns.
On the other hand, the Falcons have seen first hand what happens when your return game is not up to snuff, and Ridley’s talent gives them an opportunity to upgrade their returns significantly while they break him in at receiver. He’s my favorite for the job at the moment.
Q: Is Julio Jones going to show up, and is that a big deal?
The answer is no and no. Julio made some little waves this past weekend when he showed up at Cam Newton’s kickball event when he hasn’t been to OTAs, but that minor row obscures the fact that nothing appears to being going on here. That means no protracted holdout—the Falcons are expecting Julio at minicamp—and no heightened contract drama.
It still would not shock me if the Falcons adjust Julio’s contract—Jones shot down rumors and said he’ll be a Falcon for life, but the team responded to media inquiries as if #11 had asked for something—but it’ll likely happen relatively quietly and later on in the year. The net result is that Jones should be in camp and ready for what I sincerely hope will be a great season.