FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons report to training camp for the 2022 NFL season on Tuesday at the team's practice facility. Here's a closer look at a few storylines.
The most compelling position battle: It would be easy to say quarterback here with veteran Marcus Mariota and rookie Desmond Ridder trying to takeover after the team traded long-time quarterback Matt Ryan in the offseason, but entering camp it would take a lot for Ridder to overtake Mariota right away. Who snaps the quarterback the ball, though, is a true unknown. Last year’s starter at center, Matt Hennessy, will face competition from second-year player Drew Dalman. And the Falcons might not be done looking at options, already signing Jonotthan Harrison, who has 42 career starts. How this shakes out could have massive implications on the Falcons’ run game and quarterback protection throughout the year.
The player with the most to prove: This could be a lot of players, but right tackle Kaleb McGary is at the top of the list. Atlanta didn’t pick up his fifth-year option, and he should get pushed by veterans Germain Ifedi and Elijah Wilkinson for the starting job. But the former first-round pick does have talent, and now that he’s in a contract year, he has a chance to make some real money. He was a starter for the Falcons in all but one game of his three-year career, but his long-term future is, at best, in flux with the organization that drafted him.
The biggest question: Can the Falcons outperform for another season? Last year, once injuries began to pile up and receiver Calvin Ridley left the team to deal with personal issues, Atlanta could have easily plummeted. Instead, the Falcons were in (an admittedly weak) playoff race up until almost the end of the season. This year’s team has the makings of a roster short on well-known talent, but second-year coach Arthur Smith has shown he can get his players to play to their talent level and in some cases exceed what they’d done before. If he does it again this season, that would bode very well for Atlanta’s future.
Fiercest fantasy-relevant battle: Quarterback, but not necessarily for Week 1. The better Ridder plays, the more he’ll push Mariota. And if things start to go poorly during the season, either for the Falcons or for Mariota, the chance to put the third-round pick out of Cincinnati into the lineup to know what they have for a potential long-term future could be enticing. So it’ll matter for the Falcons, but for fantasy purposes, it could be something to monitor because if a move comes it could be in the stretch run of the season. If you choose to have Mariota on your roster, consider partnering him with Ridder because it could be a situation worth watching not only in camp but throughout the season.
Camp prediction: Tyler Allgeier wins at least part of the running back role. Now this might not be the boldest prediction in the world, but the rookie out of BYU is going to get every chance to win the early-down running back role -- especially if Atlanta plans on using veteran Cordarrelle Patterson like the multi-faceted offensive option he seems destined to be. Allgeier will need work in pass protection, but his bruising, fall-forward, contact-loving running style will endear him to head coach Arthur Smith and offensive coordinator Dave Ragone, making him a Day 1 player for a young Falcons roster.