The Atlanta Falcons will have no shortage of position battles for fans to watch during training camp. That’s especially true for the offense.
Atlanta enters its first season of the post-Matt Ryan era in 2022. Ryan’s departure leaves the team with its first real quarterback intrigue in about a decade and a half.
Similar to last season, the Falcons also have question marks at pass catcher and along the offensive line. The team will have stiff competition at each position group this August.
Here are the top four position battle to watch during training camp for the Falcons offense.
The Falcons took advantage of the perceived weak quarterback class and grabbed one of the more highly-regarded signal callers in Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder during the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Head coach Arthur Smith was complimentary of Ridder during the week of the team’s mandatory minicamp.
“He’s light years ahead of most young quarterbacks, in terms of playing from the neck up,” Smith said according to Scott Blair of atlantafalcons.com.
Smith added that the organization is “betting on some of the physical things you see at times” catching up to Ridder’s mental advantage.
But while impressed with Ridder, quarterback is probably still Marcus Mariota’s job to lose. He arrived in Atlanta as a “bridge,” veteran signal caller to likely start until the team figures out its real future at the position.
Mariota is 29-32 in his career as an NFL starter, but he hasn’t started a game since 2019.
Quarterback is always a position to watch in the NFL. Behind center will be particularly interesting in Atlanta this summer because of the potential for Ridder to earn the job immediately. But it will probably be Mariota starting in Week 1.
When Calvin Ridley was suspended before the start of free agency, the Falcons had arguably the worst wide receiver core in the entire NFL. Atlanta hasn’t completely fixed the group yet, but the team has added some talent to the position the last couple months.
In free agency, the Falcons signed Auden Tate and Geronimo Allison. The Falcons also traded for Bryan Edwards and drafted Drake London at No. 8 overall in the first round.
During four years with the Cincinnati Bengals, Tate posted 61 catches, 799 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. He started 10 games in 2019, but he has just two other starts in his four-year career. Still just 25, Tate will have the opportunity to start this fall.
Edwards will have that chance too. A former third-round pick, he doesn’t turn 24 until November. Edwards posted 34 catches, 571 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns with the Las Vegas Raiders last season. He has averaged 17.0 yards per catch in 28 career games.
Of course, London is the most exciting player to watch of the Falcons’ wide receiver group. He was the first wide receiver off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft. Atlanta is expecting London and tight end Kyle Pitts to make a lethal receiving combination for years to come.
Allison will also have a chance to contribute to the Atlanta offense. He was a solid contributor for the Green Bay Packers during his rookie contract. Then his career went downhill after he signed with the Detroit Lions. He opted out of the 2020 season because of COVID and then spent most of last season on the practice squad.
Allison has 89 catches, 1,045 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns in his career.
Interior Offensive Line
Of all the positions on this list, center and guard are the least likely to see a fierce training camp battle.
Matt Hennessy started all 17 games at center for the Falcons last year. Jalen Mayfield started 16 games at right guard. In all likelihood, they will be the team’s starter at center and right guard again, respectively.
But the Falcons also have 2021 fourth-round pick Drew Dalman. He has the ability to play at either center or guard.
If Hennessy struggles, or should Mayfield not continue improving, Dalman could create a training camp battle at either center or right guard
A former first-round pick, McGary has struggled in his career and has yet to prove he can be an NFL starter. The Falcons declined to pick up his fifth-year option, so he will be a free agent at the end of the season.
To push McGary in training camp, the Falcons signed veteran right tackle Germain Ifedi. He started only seven games last season and finished the year on injured reserve. But Ifedi started at least 13 games from 2016-20.
The Falcons could turn to his experience at any point if McGary struggles. McGary is the favorite to keep the job, but he won’t win the starting role by default.