Training camp is nearly upon us, and we’ve already spent some time talking about players who need to improve, new Falcons free agents and rookies to watch, and Atlanta roster battles to monitor. Today, it’s time for a dose of universal truths.
Some of these you’ll nod along with, some may hurt you a little, but all of them are true.
#1: You will fall in love with a wide receiver who gets cut
I bring this one up every year because from Brandyn Harvey to Bernard Reedy to JD McKissic, there’s always a scrappy young receiver with some promise who winds up either narrowly making the team and getting cut shortly thereafter, making the practice squad and finding themselves cut or with another team, or just getting cut outright before ever making it. I have no idea who this year’s surprise will be, but I know that player will exist, and I know they will break your heart.
#2: There will be at least one surprise veteran getting the axe
The Falcons have a crowded roster this year, which means there just isn’t room for everyone. Gone are the days when you could more or less predict every cut, and it seems very likely that the team will part ways with at least one “name” player when cutdowns come later this summer.
Who are some names to watch here? Justin Hardy at wide receiver, Sean Harlow (a mild surprise at best) or Ty Sambrailo along the offensive line, Kemal Ishmael at linebacker, and Justin Bethel and Blidi Wreh-Wilson at cornerback.
#3: Battles and positions won’t turn out the way you expect them to
This item and the one both immediately before and immediately after it are sort of all of one piece. We convince ourselves that we know, after a handful of practices, how certain battles are going to shake out. Yet if surprise cuts are in the offing, so too are surprise winners.
This is most relevant at fullback and returner, where the jobs are wide open and the early favorites may not be the men who take the job. It also applies to those final few roster spots, where someone like Sean Harlow could “win” his battle for the last guard spot and lose out because the Falcons aren’t interested in keeping that many offensive linemen. So it goes.
#4: Special teamers will beat out more “interesting” players for roster spots
It’s very possible that Russell Gage doesn’t look as good at receiver as, say, one of the crop of rookie UDFAs. It’s quite possible Justin Bethel looks significantly worse at cornerback than Blidi Wreh-Wilson. It likely won’t matter, however, because players like Bethel and Gage are needed for their special teams prowess, and especially this year with all the criticism lobbed toward teams in 2017, that value is going to keep them around.
#5: Things will happen that are harped on all year
Remember when Kyle Shanahan picked off Matt Ryan? Remember when Julio Jones was limited at the start of training camp? Remember when Bernard Reedy was so impressive in the summer that Falcons fans spent an entire season angry that he wasn’t on the roster and returning kicks? I sure do.
I have no idea what the story lines of this training camp will be—Julio Jones’ holdout is the clubhouse leader, especially if he makes even one big mistake this season—but something’s going to happen that is still going to be a topic of conversation in late December.
#6: It will be over in the blink of an eye
Training camp is the most anticipated football-related event on the calendar once the doldrums of the offseason set in, which with a few dramatic exceptions tends to begin in May. Like all things you anticipate, it’ll fly by, and we’ll be knee deep in the preseason and ultimately the season in what seems like a handful of days. Try to savor it while you can, in other words.