3 players with the most to gain in training camp for the Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons are coming off of a disappointing 2018 campaign in which they won just seven games, but there are plenty of reasons for them to be optimistic going into 2019.
They still have an MVP-caliber quarterback, their offense is loaded and they are getting healthy on both sides of the ball.
That being said, based on the fact that the Falcons went just 7-9 this past year, there are obviously some areas that need shoring up, and the solutions may very well be on Atlanta’s current roster.
All of that might get sorted out in training camp, so here are three Falcons players with the most to gain this summer.
3. Foye Oluokun
When the Falcons drafted Foye Oluokun in the sixth round last year, they probably didn’t expect him to get a ton of reps at linebacker, but he ended up playing in all 16 games and making seven starts, totaling 91 tackles and a forced fumble.
Now, there are some expectations on Oluokun, so he has to be ready to start immediately for Atlanta going into this season.
With fellow linebacker Deion Jones returning after an injury-riddled 2018 campaign, Oluokun will certainly have some help, but he will need to pick up any slack that Jones may leave if he is not 100 percent.
A good training camp would go a long way in building Oluokun’s confidence and assuring that he is ready to assume a starting role in the Falcons’ linebacking corps for a full season.
2. Isaiah Oliver
The Falcons drafted Isaiah Oliver in the second round of the draft last spring, and while he played in 14 games, he served a reserve role, registering 23 tackles, an interception and seven passes defended.
But now, with Atlanta releasing fellow cornerback Robert Alford, Oliver will step into a starting role alongside of Desmond Trufant heading into 2019, and he needs to prove he is ready for the challenge.
The Falcons seem to really believe in Oliver, with head coach Dan Quinn expecting the second-year pro to thrive in a larger role this coming season.
While Oliver may currently be listed as a starter for Atlanta, a poor training camp could quickly make Quinn reconsider his decision, so it’s important for Oliver to show out this summer.
1. Ito Smith
With Devonta Freeman being injured for most of 2018, Tevin Coleman took on the role of featured back, and Ito Smith served as the backup. However, Coleman is now in San Francisco, meaning that if Freeman gets hurt again in 2019, Smith will have to carry the load.
Either way, Smith will likely see an increased role this year, as he seems to be Atlanta’s running back of the future. He struggled during his rookie campaign, rushing for just 315 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 3.5 yards per carry, but this kid was a monster at Southern Mississippi, and there is no doubt that he has potential as a versatile threat on the NFL level.
The Falcons are certainly hoping for a better year out of Smith, and that will start in training camp, as Smith gets some reps with the offense and tries to establish some confidence in himself and inspire some confidence for the rest of the club that he can consistently perform.