It’s been little more than week since the Atlanta Falcons opened up training camp on July 31. Now it’s time to look back over the first seven days of practices and see which Falcons were able to raise their stock, and those that unfortunately weren’t.
RB Terron Ward
The undrafted rookie out of Oregon State has had an impressive start to camp. With hamstring injuries limiting Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman early on, Ward has and will continue to see increased reps with the starters. Ward was impressing even before Freeman and Coleman were sidelined. The undersized back has impressive speed, quickness and hands that could draw easy comparisons to departed running back Jacquizz Rodgers, given their similar statures and choice of college.
While it’s doubtful that Ward will leapfrog Freeman, Coleman or Antone Smith on the depth chart, he has taken an early and substantial lead in the race to earn the fifth and potentially final running back spot after the aforementioned three backs and whoever is the starting fullback.
WR Leonard Hankerson
Expected to compete with the likes of Justin Hardy and Devin Hester for the third wide receiver spot vacated by Harry Douglas, Hankerson has seemingly taken the early lead in the competition. Hankerson’s size and length have stood out in practices and he’s shown more reliable hands thus far than he was known for during his days with the Washington Redskins. If Hankerson can continue to hold onto Matt Ryan’s passes as August progresses, he’ll open the season being counted upon to be Ryan’s third option on the outside.
OL James Stone/OL Mike Person
This is slightly cheating to point out two players, but it’s noteworthy that along with Chris Chester, Stone and Person have garnered the most reps with the starters during the first week of training camp. Joe Hawley and Jon Asamoah are locks to start this season assuming both are healthy, but the left guard spot is up for competition. Expectations are that Chester will win the job in the end, leaving Stone and Person battling it out for the right to be the top backup.
While it’s too early to tell whether Stone or Person have pulled ahead of each other, the fact that both have garnered snaps at both guard and center suggests that the team is looking for one of the two to emerge as the swing guard/center that will become the top backup on gamedays. It’s also notable given the fact that Peter Konz, the “third wheel” in that positional battle, has yet to earn starting reps thus far in practices.
LB Vic Beasley
Expectations were high for the Falcons’ top draft selection entering summer, and the rookie out of Clemson has not disappointed. He’s impressed teammates with his speed and quickness, and has done everything the coaching staff has asked of him, including performing on special teams drills. Beasley may be destined to be a situational player in 2015 but that doesn’t diminish the probability that his role with the team will still remain significant as the team’s top pass-rusher.
S Charles Godfrey
Barring a major upset it would appear that at least through the first week of camp, Ricardo Allen has got the starting free safety job locked up. That’s disappointing given that Godfrey is a well-established veteran with 75 career starts that should have played a significant factor in deciding who starts at that position. Godfrey has garnered very little attention from camp observers, so much so that unless he can stand out in the coming weeks’ practices and preseason games, he might be in danger of losing his roster spot altogether.
LB Brooks Reed
Reed’s stock has gone down thanks largely to the amount of time he’s missed due to lingering issues with the hip/groin injury that sidelined him for most of the offseason. While Reed is in no real danger of losing his roster spot, his continued absence from practices could undermine his hold on the starting strong-side linebacker spot. The positive is that Reed is expected to return healthy next week and he’ll hopefully hit the ground running to nip any questions in the bud.
CB Jalen Collins
The Falcons’ second-round pick out of LSU struggled by all accounts during a few practices during the first week. Much of that could be blamed on the fact that a foot injury kept him out of most of the offseason workouts and minicamps. While it was well-known that Collins would take time to develop given limited collegiate experience, his early struggles has opened the door for the possibility that he doesn’t open the regular season as the team’s nickel cornerback. That honor might fall to Phillip Adams unless Collins can play catch up and improve.