What can you really take away from organized team activities? They’re worth discussing—we don’t have much else to talk about this time of year, and it’s an early glimpse at what’s ahead for the team—but I hope it goes without saying that projecting performance based off a few sessions in the warm May sun is foolhardy. A couple of errant (or sharp) Desmond Ridder throws in May mean about as much as that Matt Ryan interception to Kyle Shanahan meant in August 2016, regardless of how you think he’ll fare in 2023.
But we can still enjoy this time, where the Falcons are full of outrageous promise and just about anything you can imagine might still be ahead for them. And we can still see what the team is tinkering with now, understanding that it may or may not be something that endures into training camp. Amidst all the very good reporting from OTAs and comments from the great Calais Campbell about this team’s fortunes, which is worth your time to read and watch, there are a couple of items that intrigued me.
Both of them might have repercussions well into the summer, so let’s quickly break them down.
Avery Williams working with receivers
In 2021, Williams was a promising returner and depth cornerback. In 2022, he was an electric returner and running back. In 2023, he’s once again an electric returner and...maybe a receiver?
Tori McElhaney with the Falcons noted that Williams got some work with that group on Wednesday, a season after he stuck on the running back depth chart but got plenty of work as a receiving option in his limited snaps, with 13 catches versus 22 carries on the year. We can’t go ahead and extrapolate anything from one session, but given their unsettled wide receiver depth chart, Williams’ speed, and the fact that he showed quality hands in those opportunities, he may factor in there as well.
For a player like Williams who likely would make the team regardless of his position because he is a dynamite punt returner and capable kick returner, the versatility is still welcome. If he’s the fourth running back and de facto sixth or seventh receiver on top of his excellence as a returner, that’s great. The Falcons would be wise to find opportunities, however few and far between, to get the ball into the hands of one of their more dynamic players.
Matt Hennessy first up at left guard
The other observation isn’t unexpected, but does tell us a little something about the pecking order on this team. Hennessy is working with the first team offensive line at left guard at the moment, and while Matthew Bergeron should take that job and rotate in with the starters soon enough, the fact that Hennessy is up early with the familiar faces you’d expect to start suggests the team still thinks a lot of him.
Bergeron will have plenty of time to take over, but Hennessy would be a strong bet to open the season as a starter if the rookie doesn’t impress the coaching staff ahead of Week 1. At worst, Hennessy should be guaranteed a roster spot as someone who can credibly play both guard and center.