Well here’s my attempt to breakdown each position and some of the battles we will see in training camp. Quarterback is certainly going to be the most interesting.
Chris Redman enters the summer as the team’s starter, but whether or not he ends it there isn’t known right now. Redman played relatively well at the end of last season, putting up some impressive numbers in four starts in December. But the question that is whispered is whether that was an aberration. Was that the product of running Bobby Petrino/Hue Jackson’s offense, one in which he was familiar? Will he be able to do the same now that Mike Mularkey has taken over the offensive reins. These are all questions that need to be answered this summer. But until then, it’s Redman’s job to lose. Redman has a strong arm, with a slight penchant to turn the ball over. He took some chances late last year, and it paid off for him. Redman is trying to prove that he’s not just a journeyman quarterback, and that the Ravens were wrong for giving up on him all those years ago. He’ll have the golden opportunity this summer and season with the Falcons.
The most likely candidate to take Redman’s starting job is rookie Matt Ryan. Ryan is clearly the future as far as the franchise is concerned at quarterback. But there is some thought that the future should take hold now in the present. Low expectations rule the Falcons this season, and there is a realm of thought that the sooner Ryan gets his feet wet, the better for him. Ryan doesn’t have great physical tools as far as arm strength goes, but teammates have been taken early with him, impressed with his leadership and maturity. If he can transform that into strong and early production this summer, he stands a very good chance of opening the season in the starting lineup. Officially, Ryan is currently listed at No. 3 on the depth chart, but it seems to only be a matter of time before the coaching staff elevates him up the depth chart to get him more reps. And when that occurs is a covert signal that the coaching staff is perhaps getting him ready to start.
The other quarterbacks in camp are Joey Harrington and D.J. Shockley. And while the coaches are quick to point out that both are in the running for the starting quarterback, their chances of success are very low without an injury to aid them. Harrington has experience in Mularkey’s system, having played for the coach in 2006 in Miami. Harrington had a few moments early last season as the team’s starter, but was mostly average in his ten starts. Harrington’s penchant for conservative play hurts him as a starter, although it makes him an ideal backup due to his experience.
Shockley’s season last summer was cut short due to injury. And who knows what could have happened had he stayed healthy last year. It could be him we’re talking about as the Falcons starter instead of Redman. Shockley has excellent athleticism and a big arm and also a loyal following from many in the local fan base from his days at Georgia, but so far hasn’t offered much on the field to indicate he can be a contributor in this league. Shockley has been only average in each of his first two summers in Atlanta, and unfortunately he cannot continue that trend this summer if he wants to stick. He and Harrington are most likely competing for the No. 3 job and the right to hold the clipboard. Shockley will need to have the summer of his life if he wants to make this roster.
Ryan vs. Redman – Battling for the starting job. Redman has the edge right now.
Harrington vs. Shockley – Battling for the No. 3 job. Winner stays, loser goes.
Because the Falcons will sport a rookie quarterback this year, it’s likely they will keep a third passer on the roster. Although there is a chance that if Ryan is named the starter at the beginning of the year, they may decide to go with only two passers on the roster. It’s a growing trend in the NFL the past two years, and would make sense if the Falcons think very highly of Ryan. Shockley may remain still eligible for the team’s practice squad.