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Everything you need to know about Falcons training camp, from A to Z

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Will Julio Jones ever show up? Which position battles should you be tracking? Here’s everything you need to know.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons-Minicamp Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons players will report to Flowery Branch on Thursday for training camp, which officially begins on Friday. This means that our long, nightmarish wait is nearly over. Football is almost back.

It also means that there’s a lot for Falcons fans to wrap their heads around as we head into camp. The Falcoholic staff has you covered.

A is for Autographs

Players sign autographs after camp practices that are open to the public, so come prepared. But remember: A is also for Ass, as in don’t act like one when players are signing autographs. I’ve seen grown men push little kids out of the way to get to star players. That autograph is tainted, bro, and I hope you remember every time you look at it that you ruined some little kid’s day to get it, you big jerk. - Jeanna Thomas

B is for Bernie Parmalee

The team’s new running backs coach will be tasked with managing what could be the last year of the Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combo, as well as overseeing the development of rookie Ito Smith and the fullback battle. The run game will be vital as ever this season, and we’re curious to see how the well-respected veteran coach does to get this group ready in camp, particularly if he can help Freeman become a better blocker. - Cory Woodroof

C is for Calvin Ridley

With the news that Julio Jones is not expected to appear at training camp, it means more opportunities for the Falcons’ 2018 first-round pick Calvin Ridley. Ridley has already turned heads this offseason, and with Atlanta’s undisputed WR-1 in the wind, it means more reps for Ridley. It will be intriguing to watch Ridley as the top receiving option at camp. - Carter Breazeale

D is for Discipline

The Falcons’ lack of discipline last season hurt like crazy at the worst moments early last season. Remember those boneheaded penalties from the Miami Dolphins game that made “blow a lead to the 2017 Jay Cutler Miami Dolphins” a thing? It was bad! The team needs to be more disciplined in all phases of the game early in the season before the get their legs under them for the year, and that’ll start in camp and in the preseason. - Cory Woodroof

E is for Eric Saubert

After The Great Tight End 2 Debate of May 2018, I began parsing the menu for the best crow-related dish available at Chez Falcoholic when second-year TE Eric Saubert began putting those circus catches in with minicamp. His growth into Austin Hooper’s second-fiddle will be a big thing to watch as camp gets underway. I’m hoping to place my order sooner than later. - Cory Woodroof

F is for Fullback

The most mysterious battle of all camp is the run for the starting fullback spot, where UDFAs Daniel Marx and Luke McNitt are duking it out with young veterarn Ricky Ortiz. The team struggled to fully replace the stellar play of Patrick DiMarco in 2017, and will hope one of these young guns have what it takes to stake out the position. Camp performances will be a major determining factor there. - Cory Woodroof

G is for Grady Jarrett, Destroyer of Worlds

Grady is comfortably one of the better young defensive tackles in the game, but when I watch him, I can’t help but think that we haven’t seen the best he has to offer. He has been so close to sacks he couldn’t quite close out, he’s gotten a hand on a running back who has just gotten away, or he’s been blocked out of a play where he was in a position to make a big play at the last possible second. With his obvious talent, his desire to land a huge contract heading into a contract season, and the talent around him on defense, I’m going to go ahead and predict that we’ll watch Jarrett blow up and become a Star with a capital S this season. - Dave Choate

H is for the Hill of Death

If you are heading to Flowery Branch to watch training camp, come prepared. We are deep summer in Georgia, and the fan zone is what I call the Hill of Death. The heat is stifling, the humidity is worse, and you can get baked on the treeless hill while thinking what a fool you were for not bringing a hat. - Matt Chambers

I is for Ito Smith

Ito Smith could be the second-fiddle to Devonta Freeman in 2019 if Tevin Coleman bolts for elsewhere, so watch for him to get as much time in camp and preseason to prove his worth before taking a muted role in the offense in 2018. The summer will be crucial for the rookie’s development, as for, well, justifying him taking a roster spot if things get tight at other positions. He should be safe, but a strong summer only makes his spot even safer. - Cory Woodroof

J is for Jet Sweep

Let’s try practicing that one a few more times before breaking it out in a game. - Matt Chambers

K is for Kick Returner

With the departure of Andre Roberts, the Falcons head into training camp without an established option at kick returner — who emerges from camp as the clear favorite? Atlanta has toyed around with a bevy of options, such as Marvin Hall, Reggie Davis, and Justin Hardy. The Falcons even gave rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley a look at returner during rookie minicamp. The battle for this key special teams slot is one to watch as training camp rolls along. - Carter Breazeale

L is for Losses

The Falcons will use camp to oversee the losses they had in the offseason, primarily on the defensive line. The trio of Jack Crawford, Terrell McClain and rookie Deadrin Senat will attempt to sand over the absence of Dontari Poe, and Takk McKinley’s continued development will hopefully erase the worry we have over Adrian Clayborn being elsewhere. Rookie Calvin Ridley will also have to take on the open spot left behind by Taylor Gabriel. These three guys were the key departures in the spring, and we’ll see if Atlanta’s contingency plan to losing them will pay off, starting in camp. - Cory Woodroof

M is for Matty Ice

Let’s be honest: the season will rely a LOT on Matt Ryan. If he bounces back to his MVP level, Atlanta should make a deep playoff run. If the timing and deep passes are still just a bit off, we will be watching other teams in the playoffs. Early camp timing could show us what to expect during the season. - Matt Chambers

N is for Neal, Keanu Neal

It’s going to be fun to watch the Falcons’ closes thing to a James Bond/Terminator hybrid continue to grow this season into one of the league’s best strong safeties. That’ll obviously start in camp, where he will continue to hone his craft and bring the firm blast of justice against receivers across the league. - Cory Woodroof

O is for Offensive resurgence

The defense could be great and special teams should revive somewhat with new additions, but the offense is the key to the whole thing. The Falcons can’t have so many stalled out drives and missed opportunities in 2018, and their road to recovery starts in training camp, when everyone’s got the chance to sit with coaches and learn from great offensive mind Greg Knapp. Wait, what? - Dave Choate

P is for Preseason games

Who doesn’t love watching a bunch of guys who aren’t going to make the roster play sloppy football for 3.75 solid preseason games? It’s important for coaches to be able to evaluate players and decide how to build the final roster, but they’re vanilla and ridiculous. At least it’s football. - Jeanna Thomas

Q is for Question marks

The Falcons have so few of them this season, but as much as we don’t want to, we ought to consider the ones that are left. In no particular order, they are:

  • Who starts at fullback, who is the team’s returner/are the team’s returners, and who starts next to Grady Jarrett?
  • Will Calvin Ridley, Isaiah Oliver and the rookies hit the ground running?
  • Is Takkarist McKinley going to break out in his second season, with a huge number of snaps heading his way?
  • Is Steve Sarkisian ready for primetime after an up-and-down rookie season? - Dave Choate

R is for Red Zone

The Atlanta offense fell off most dramatically from 2016 thanks to poor red zone play. We don’t know if Julio will be there to improve on his three touchdowns, but the team will look to work out the kinks in the scoring offense. - Matt Chambers

S is for Steve Sarkisian

Sark can’t exactly show off his improvements on the practice field, but all eyes will be on him regardless. Does he look like he knows what he’s doing this year? Does he have a tan? The people want to know. - Dave Choate

T is for the “T” in J.T. Jones and in Travis Jones

One of the most interesting guys to follow in this upcoming edition of training camp is second-year pass rusher J.T. Jones. He flashed in preseason last year enough to secure a spot on the practice squad, and figures to compete for some sort of role in the front seven this season. A report saw him flex-training at strongside linebacker, which could make him a seasoned backup for De’Vondre Campbell. It also helps that new Falcons Asst. DL coach Travis Jones is his uncle. Speaking of, the hiring of Jones didn’t get a lot of press, but the former Seattle DL coach teaming up with Bryant Young to oversee the front four could be the uptick that unit needs to weather losing Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn. Both the Jones will be guys to watch this camp. - Cory Woodroof

U is for Ukulele

The Falcons cut their most veteran tight end, a noted ukulele enthusiast. Levine Toilolo never amounted to much of a weapon, and is replaced with Logan Paulsen. Can Paulsen step in and upgrade over Atlanta’s #2 tight end, and #1 ukulele player? - Matt Chambers

V is for Vertical

The Falcons need to do a better job of establishing a better deep ball in 2018, and that’ll start in training camp. We all know the Matt Ryan/Julio Jones connection was a bit off last year, and when Jones goes vertical, we all, well, kind of expect him to be open and catch the ball. Most times he does, but that link getting stronger will only help. The team could also use another receiver to emerge as a vertical threat. Calvin Ridley intrigues here, as he had no trouble going deep at Bama. Let’s see the vert routes improve in camp this year. - Cory Woodroof

W is for Where the Hell will Julio Jones Be When Camp Starts

Maybe he’ll be hanging out with T.O., doing pushups during a press conference in T.O.’s driveway. Perhaps he’ll be hanging out with Quavo, Takeoff, and Offset. Maybe he’ll be jetskiing on Lake Lanier, in which case he should probably take out his earrings first. But we know where he won’t be: at training camp. - Jeanna Thomas

X is for Xenial

Please let this entire Julio Jones thing end on an xenial note between he and the team. That means friendly; hospitable. There aren’t many words that start with X, and we refuse to stoop down to do the Xs and Os thing, because that’s way too obvious. - Cory Woodroof

Y is for You

Yes, you too can enjoy Falcons training camp. Check out the full schedule here, and please note that this Sunday you can see the team in action at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. See you there! - Jeanna Thomas

Z is for Zebra

The Falcons will need to clean up penalties called by the zebras this season. In 2017, they were around league average, which leaves a ton of room for improvement. Getting back to the basics should help limit unnecessary penalties. - Matt Chambers