This post is written with a caveat: anything coaches and players say about a minicamp session should be positive. Also, because I was unable to attend any of the public sessions, I’ve compiled these five points using articles from those who’ve actually attended the sessions.
1. The Falcons offense, led by quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones, is going to explode.
There are a few things at work here. First, Ryan made a concentrated effort to get stronger this offseason, and according to head coach Mike Smith, the difference in the quarterback’s arm strength is apparent. Next, is the maturation and development of Jones. For his performance in minicamp, Jones was named the MVP. Now granted, that award ultimately means nothing, but regardless, it’s nice for Jones’ teammates to give him recognition. Throw in the fact Jones now has an offseason to get comfortable with Ryan (and it’s apparently working), and it’s difficult not to get excited for what these two should do.
However, what I think is the biggest factor is the passing game won’t be funneled through wide receiver Roddy White. Over the past two seasons, White has seen an almost obscene amount of targets. By his own admission, White says he will do less in order to get Jones and slot receiver Harry Douglas involved more. Oh, and running back Michael Turner’s workload will be lessened.
2. Rookie guard/center Peter Konz will win the right guard spot.
Konz is already slated to compete for the starting spot once training camp rolls around, but I think it’s a safe bet he’ll win it. Left guard Justin Blalock praised Konz, particularly his ability to play multiple positions “naturally.”
3. The Falcons pass defense will be vastly improved.
The acquisition of cornerback Asante Samuel undoubtedly makes the secondary that much better, but cornerback Dunta Robinson’s move to the nickel is the key here. Since Robinson arrived in Atlanta, he’s asked to play in the nickel. Now, with Samuel and cornerback Brent Grimes on the outside, Robinson gets his wish. When Robinson was a member of the Houston Texans, he played the nickel quite a bit.
4. The Falcons defense will bring pressure from everywhere.
Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan loves to use exotic, confusing blitzes. In an interview, Nolan says the pressure won’t be limited to one or two sources. I suspect most of the Falcons defensive starters will notch at least one sack; it won’t be just defensive end John Abraham collecting sacks. Oh, and defensive end Ray Edwards is fully healthy and ready to prove last year was an aberration.
5. The Falcons will win their first playoff game in eight years.