Training camp provides an opportunity every year for coaches to sort out important battles for starting or key roles on the team. In years past we’ve seen players like Robert McClain win their positional battle at training camp and go on to make an impact during the regular season. As training camp approaches this year there are more positional battles to be fought and roles to be determined. This year several important battles will be fought that will determine starters and key role players on both sides of the ball for the upcoming season.
The first position battle to keep an eye will likely be the most contested and talked about battle at training camp this year, and that is the battle for at right tackle. After the Falcons designated starter Tyson Clabo salary cut, many started penciling in the Falcons third round pick in 2012, Lamar Holmes as the starter at RT. However, Mike Johnson was impressive at OTAs and will be heading into training camp at the top of depth chart. Johnson who played guard at Alabama is also a former third round draft pick of the Falcons. While Johnson is listed at the top of the depth chart, many still believe that Holmes will walk out with the starting job when the dust settles. Holmes does have an advantage on Johnson as he has played tackle his entire career where-as Johnson was moved from guard to tackle last season. Holmes is perceived as the better pass blocker, while Johnson is seen as the better run blocker. It will be interesting to see how this battle plays out as both players bring different strengths and weaknesses to the offense.
The second positional battle to watch at training camp is the battle for the starting left end job. Kroy Biermann is considered the incumbent for the position, but the Falcons seem to want to use him in a more versatile role. This opens the door for rookie fourth round pick Malliciah Goodman. Goodman has both the size and strength to start at left end and as you may remember he certainly has the length to contain the edge and rush the passer. However, Biermann is no slouch against the run either, it’s arguably the best area of his game and he is the more proven player at this point. I expect Biermann to win this battle, but don’t be surprised if Goodman gets a lot of playing time, especially in 3-4 sets.
The final training camp battle to keep an eye on is the battle for the second string TE position. The Falcons have utilized two TE packages quite a bit over the years, including goal-line and short yardage situations. Chase Coffman seems to be the early leader for this position, but rookie Levine Toilolo could easily win the job due to his size and blocking ability. Coffman was utilized quite a bit at the end of last year as the second TE and may have the upper hand but expect Toilolo to give him a run for his money as he is a very gifted TE in his own right. I wouldn’t be surprised if both players got adequate playing time through-out the season though as both have different strengths that could play into different scenarios that the Falcons might encounter. For instance don’t be surprised if Toilolo is utilized more often in the red-zone than Coffman and if Coffman is utilized in more obvious passing situations than Toilolo.