It’s been more than a full week since the Atlanta Falcons conducted their first practice of training camp last Friday, July 25. It’s now time to take stock on what we’ve seen over the past eight days.
DT Travian Robertson
I can honestly say that I’ve been a fan of Robertson for some time. He’s popped out in each of the past two preseasons, and I even considered him a lock to make the roster a year ago. Yet it never translates to playing time for Robertson during the season. Lawrence Sidbury seemingly suffered from the same fate in Atlanta, and it would be a shame if it happened to Robertson. But he’s done his best to pop to several observers with dominant performances against centers Joe Hawley and Peter Konz in one-on-one pass-rush drills. And it’s also fair to say that Robertson’s chances of sticking improve with the recent retirement of defensvie tackle Peria Jerry. The Falcons will likely be looking to spell nose tackle Paul Soliai in many pass-rush situations. Corey Peters would be an obvious option there since he played that exact role last season in Atlanta, but he’s recovering from an Achilles tear. There are optimistic reports that Peters will be healthy Week 1, but if not, then Robertson could fill the void behind Soliai.
WR Julio Jones
I have to be honest a second time. I did not expect Julio Jones to be as good as he’s been this early in camp. When reports came out in early June that Jones was expecting to play Week 1, it hinted that he might see little or no action during the preseason. And that may prove true when it comes to actual games, but Jones is at least seeing a fair bit of action in practice. Jones is on the one day on, one day off practice schedule. The Falcons know that he is the biggest factor in the team’s overall success this season, and don’t want to risk re-injury. Jones has lit up every practice he’s appeared in, which has been four so far.
WR Bernard Reedy
While there was already a buzz about Reedy heading into camp, he has yet to disappoint thus far. One of the favorites among the undrafted free agents to potentially make the team’s roster, Reedy has been impressive with his speed and explosiveness. He has routinely given Falcons corners trouble in one-on-one drills due to that burst and quickness. If that can continue into the games, Reedy will remain on the fast track to make the team.
OLB Jacques Smith
Smith has made a number of plays throughout the first week of camp to shift his potential status as far as making the team goes. Initially considered to be more of a camp body that could push for a practice squad spot, the buzz on Smith has been positive enough in the early going that it would not be at all shocking if he made the final roster. Most notable so far for Smith was that he got involved in two fights this past Monday. Hopefully his play on the field will begin to exert itself more fully and he’ll become known for that.
CB Robert McClain
While the Falcons have indicated that it will be an open competition for the nickel cornerback spot and thus McClain should get an opportunity to win the job, the very fact that it’s open indicates McClain’s stock is down. Considering he’s coming off a tough 2013 season, it makes sense. But with free-agent signee Josh Wilson opening up camp as the team’s first-team nickel corner is telling since that was always considered McClain’s job to lose.
ILB Joplo Bartu
While most reports on Bartu thus far in camp have been positive, the fact that the Falcons continue to look at ways of shoring up their depth at inside linebacker is a small indicator that the team is very concerned about the position. If they had full confidence in Bartu’s ability to manage the starting spot, then it would stand to reason that the buzz on impressive rookie Prince Shembo would also be lessened.