The Falcons are going to be quite dependent on rookies in 2020, not that I needed to tell you that. They shipped off Desmond Trufant in favor of A.J. Terrell, they added Marlon Davidson to be a prominent part of the defensive line, Matt Hennessy could start at left guard, and Mykal Walker is going to be a real contributor at linebacker. That’s not even mentioning rookie punter Sterling Hofrichter or UDFAs like Chris Rowell who could also contribute on special teams.
That’s not a bad strategy, given that this team badly needed an infusion of young talent in the trenches in particular and more broadly across the roster. The problem is that this very unique, very difficult offseason is going to complicate the typical process rookies would go through in order to seize jobs and acclimate to the NFL. If the league goes through with cutting down preseason to two games, as they’re reportedly mulling, it’s going to make it that much harder for rookies to impress coaching staffs and get those starting jobs.
If preseason is shortened and training camp is too, we’ll probably just have to expect slower starts to the season from many rookies. The reality is that the Falcons are unlikely to hand anyone but Terrell the starting job without another signing, and guys like Davidson will have to have major roles for the defense to improve. We just can’t start on them getting off to hot starts, not that I would expect them to anyways.
There’s only one position where I think the starting job could be in question due to this, and
Matt Hennessy was the favorite as soon as he was drafted and the team talked about potentially playing him at guard, given his talent and the team’s eagerness to get him on the field. Without a full summer to earn a starting job, though, that might be in jeopardy.
The Falcons have plenty of options at guard, even if none of them are compelling. Jamon Brown started games last year, James Carpetner started games last year, Justin McCray has started games at guard in the past, and Matt Gono has looked capable in every opportunity he’s been given. If Hennessy can’t stand out in his limited opportunities, it’s very possible he’ll be riding the pine, no matter how badly the coaching staff wants him to win the gig.
I’m going to turn this over to you guys for a lively discussion, since I know this topic came up the other day when I first wrote about the shortened preseason. What position battles might be impacted that I’m not considering?