Mandatory minicamp is less than a week away. It’s not a time of year where we learn sweeping things about this team or what the Week 1 starting lineup will prove to be, but it is a time to pay close attention to who is lining up where in case it proves to be telling when training camp rolls around.
One item to watch, based on OTAs to this point: Fabian Moreau’s quest for a starting job outside at cornerback. The moves at safety rightfully have gotten more coverage here and elsewhere, given that Atlanta basically threw the position group away and started over, but the addition of Moreau at corner could prove impactful if he can win a starting job and thrive in it.
As our own Kevin Knight has suggested, Moreau fits best on the outside based on a range of factors including his skill set, his disastrous work inside in Washington and the team’s current lack of compelling options there. He fell out of favor with Ron Rivera’s coaching staff in 2020, but has put together quality stretches in the past and is connected to director of player personnel Kyle Smith, who likely had a hand in drafting him.
At the risk of putting too much stock into OTA decisions, this would appear to be setting up a camp battle between Moreau and Kendall Sheffield for the outside gig opposite A.J. Terrell, with Isaiah Oliver, Darren Hall, and perhaps Avery Williams duking it out for the nickel job. Given that Sheffield is coming off a shaky, injury-marred year and Moreau is the new addition for a new coaching staff and front office, my first instinct that he’d slot in as a backup will be put to the test early. The fact that Atlana saw fit to sign a veteran corner and draft two additional options tells you everything about how they felt about this depth chart outside of Terrell, so it’s probably wise not to dismiss any of the newcomers’ chances. That’s doubly true of Moreau given that Oliver did not wind up locking down a spot opposite Terrell last year, and Sheffield’s play to this point has left us with no idea whether we should expect a third year blossoming or a permanent reserve role under a new coaching staff.
That said, it’s a long summer, and cornerback is just one of the position groups set for some fierce competition. There’s little question that reading into where a player lines up in May is a fraught proposition, and it’s way too early to write a 25-year-old player like Sheffield off, to say nothing of Oliver. If Moreau can snag that starting job and prove to be an upgrade over what the Falcons had in 2019 and 2020, though, it’s one small piece for a defense that has a lot to sort out between now and September.