With the NFL Opening Kickoff just a mere fifty days away, the Atlanta Falcons will use its upcoming training camp to assess its eight rookies selected in the 2013 NFL Draft in addition to the information gained during Falcons Rookie Camp in May to determine which, if any, of these eight rookies will see playing time in the 2013 season.
Though not all of these rookies should expect to see time on the field, it is important to pay careful attention to their performance due to the increasing age of some crucial players. In fact, last year the Falcons had the oldest roster in the NFC South and the third oldest roster in the NFL. Therefore, the level of expectations on this incoming rookie class is higher than ever.
Take Stanford’s TE Levin Toilolo for example. Since Tony Gonzalez announced his return for a final season to help the Atlanta Falcons win a Super Bowl Championship, Toilolo should not expect much playing time; however, Falcons fans should pay attention to his potential at training camp to see if he is the answer in replacing Gonzalez since the thirteen-time pro bowler has already declared the 2013 season as his last. Toilolo’s role may be to not only take notes from his predecessor but he may also see playing time when the Falcons run their multi-TE offensive sets. Toilolo caught 24 passes for 393 yards with four touchdowns for the Stanford Cardinal in 2012 and is seen as a potential red-zone threat. However, he is still competing for the backup TE spot against veterans Chase Coffman and Tommy Gallarda so it is up to his performance throughout training camp to see if he earns the starting gig.
After losing defensive end John Abraham in the offseason, the Atlanta Falcons picked up DE Osi Umenyiora from the New York Giants as his replacement; however, the question still remains as to who will anchor Umenyiora on the left side. While the predictable choice would be veteran DE Kroy Biermann (even though he will receive some time at the linebacker position as well), there is a possibility the highly touted starting job could go to rookie Mallicah Goodman out of Clemson or rookie Stansly Maponga out of TCU according to the Falcoholic blog on SB Nation.
In his senior season, Goodman finished with 9.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, and forced four fumbles. He was analyzed for the draft as having violent hands and a tremendous frame with a weakness of average speed and change of direction ability. On the other hand, Maponga has impeccable power, hand usage, and a decent spin move but his inconsistency gives Goodman the edge in a rookie that has the chance to play alongside Osi Umenyiora.
Finally, the rookies most likely to see playing time come September are the Falcons’ first two draft picks, cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. After losing CB Brett Grimes in the offseason, the Falcons are looking for a starting cornerback to oppose defensive weapon Asante Samuel as is apparent through their selection of two cornerbacks with their first two picks in the 2013 NFL Draft. Trufant is likely to get the starting gig as right cornerback whereas Alford is currently listed on the depth chart behind Samuel at left cornerback. With Asante Samuel in the second half of his career, who knows how long it will be before the Falcons see a Trufant/Alford backfield. It seems the two are already forming a special bond as roommates so Falcons fans will have to wait to see how this competitive relationship materializes on the field.
We are going to have to wait for training camp to begin on July 25th for these questions to be answered, but for now, feel free to voice your opinions in the comment section below. Will any of these rookies earn a starting position? Who has the best chance?