Atlanta Falcons 2013 Training Camp: 5 Storylines to Follow
Atlanta Falcons Training Camp Will Need to Focus on 5 things
Long hours out in the sun, sweat dripping down from faces and breathing at a fast pace; NFL training camps are in full swing.
In 2013, the Atlanta Falcons are dreaming big, but in order to get there, they will have to first figure out solutions to these five storylines that every Falcons fan should keep a close eye on.
The answers to these problems will be critical and be the difference between the Falcons being a good team from the team becoming champions.
Like every other NFL team, training camps are not only used to make sure everybody is in shape, but also to see the potential in players, seize those opportunities and to capitalize it by maximizing the talent coaches have on their roster.
Coach Mike Smith and the Falcons have lofty expectations, but will be doubted by NFL analysts and the media because of their inability to finish strong late in games.
Smith will once again boast a roster that is one of the best offensively, and will have new players in hopes of making their defense respectable around the league.
The challenge that Smith and the Falcons will face this year is to be a tougher team that doesn’t just lean on talents alone, but to be able to put everything on the line.
Talent alone is not enough, and is completely useless if there is no heart behind it. The Falcons will have a chance this year to prove their critics wrong and show that the team's heartbeat is fueled by fire in 2013.
5. Rookie corner Desmond Trufant battles Robert McClain for Starting Right Corner
One of the key battles that the Falcons will have is rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant against cornerback Robert McClain for the starting position opposite of Asante Samuel.
While the Falcons are expecting their first-round pick to lock down the starting position, there are no guarantees. McClain had a great year for the Falcons as he filled in for the injured Brent Grimes in 2012.
Although Trufant will most likely win this battle, it will be important that he reaches his potential early, as this could add more athleticism to a secondary that is already on the verge of being one of the best in 2013. Trufant will be counted on to be the player the Falcons envisioned they'd be getting upon drafting him in the first round.
4. Rookie tight end Levine Toilolo Development Under Tony Gonzalez
Rookie tight end Levine Toilolo, who stands at 6-foot-8, have the Falcons staff gushing over his potential to not only become an immediate impact right away, but possibly be their future tight end for years to come.
With the Falcons already possessing one of the greatest tight ends in the history of the NFL in Tony Gonzalez, they have the perfect mentor to teach and groom Toilolo.
The Falcons will be able to see how good Toilolo can be, and are hoping that he will learn and grow from one of the very best at his respective position.
3. RB Steven Jackson Key to a Successful Run Game in 2013
In 2012, Michael Turner and the Falcons had one of the worst rushing game in the NFL, and it hurt them the most in the NFC Championship game. Out goes Turner and in comes Steven Jackson, who has been one of the more elite running backs in the NFL.
The Falcons will rely on Jackson’s ability to run the ball, and it will be very important that he gets a good grasp of the Falcons’ offense during training camp.
Although the Falcons have clearly become a passing team in the NFL, the running game will be another key in unlocking their potential and will be essential for them to achieve their goal.
2. Osi Umenyiora Replaces John Abraham at Defensive End
With the Falcons releasing their best defensive player in John Abraham, they replaced him by signing defensive end Osi Umenyiora.
Umenyiora was one of the best pass rushers the New York Giants had, but after the 2010 season, he hasn’t had double-digit sacks since.
The Giants allowed Umenyiora to walk as his skills were diminishing, but the Falcons will need him to help one of the worst defensive lines in the NFL.
Abraham led the team with 10 sacks and combined for 35 tackles, while Umenyiora combined for 43 tackles and only six sacks for the Giants in 2012.
During training camp, Smith and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will get the chance to see what his new defensive end has left in his tank, and they are hoping that he can help the defensive line become relevant once again.
1. Star QB Matt Ryan Must Continue to Get Better
As quarterback Matt Ryan inked an extension worth up to $103.75 million with the Falcons, they are hoping that he continues to grow and become an elite signal caller for years to come.
With Ryan signing his new contract, everybody will have very high expectations for him in 2013. After a stellar season in 2012, Ryan and the Falcons’ season ended in dismay after falling 10 yards short of going to the Super Bowl.
As Ryan is now one of the highest-paid players in the league, he will be expected to improve his playoff record and be a consistent quarterback for all four quarters of the game. If the Falcons expect to go anywhere, Ryan must continue to improve his overall game, and it all starts in training camp.