The Atlanta Falcons open training camp today, and the road to the Super Bowl XLVIII begins.
There is one off-the-field issue the Falcons must address soon: the contract situation of Matt Ryan. The franchise quarterback is entering the last year of his rookie deal.
On the field, the Falcons have issues to solve as well. Two of the mainstays on the offensive line are gone: center Todd McClure retired, and right tackle Tyson Clabo was released. Peter Konz, who started at right guard last year after Garrett Reynolds went down, will move to center. It’s his natural position, so the transition should be seamless. At right tackle, second-year player Lamar Holmes and Mike Johnson will battle it out for the starting job. Growing pains are to expected.
With the addition of running back Steven Jackson, Atlanta looks to convert on those pesky short-yardage situations. Also of equal importance: Jackson is a legitimate receiving threat out of the backfield. Expect him to have one of his best seasons as a pro, as he’ll see plenty of six-in-the-box looks with Tony Gonzalez, Julio Jones, and Roddy White garnering extra attention.
There are concerns on the defensive side of the ball. Osi Umenyiora solidifies the right defensive end spot left open by John Abraham, but the Falcons need a threat on the left side. Kroy Biermann will likely begin the season as the starter, but Atlanta hopes third-year player Cliff Matthews, second-year player Jonathan Massaquoi, and rookies Malliciah Goodman and Stansly Maponga can contribute as well.
The Falcons drafted Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant to take over the vacated spots left by Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson. Trufant will on the right side opposite of Asante Samuel, and Atlanta believes he can come in and contribute right away. Alford, who has been drawing praise for his athleticism, should compete with Robert McClain for the starting nickelback position.
It’s time to see if this team has what it takes to bring the Lombardi Trophy to Atlanta.
View the full training camp schedule here.