While Atlanta Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith cringed at the term "rebuild" during the offseason and training camp, reality is starting to set in after an 0-2 start.
With limited to no salary cap space available last offseason or next offseason, the Falcons will have to build primarily through the NFL Draft.
Building through the draft involves developing young players and letting them progress. It means growing pains. Smith is well aware that he needs rookies to work through tough times to get the best of them.
Rookie offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield had a nightmare first start against a talented Philadelphia Eagles front, but improved against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
"[There are] guys that are young players," Smith said. "You look at Mayfield, the same plan we had to bring him along, got expedited, right? You get injuries and he goes in there, and he played much better. That's why I said last week, you don't jerk the wheel with guys like that."
Mayfield was a third round pick out of Michigan. He had limited experience in college, began training camp at right tackle, and started the first game of the season at left guard. That he struggled against the Eagles was hardly a surprise.
"You’ve got to give them a chance to improve," Smith said. "So, all of a sudden, you're not sitting there every time looking over your shoulder at one mistake. Then at some point during the game if you’re going really wrong, you’ve got to maybe shake things up, but you’ve got to give guys the chance to bounce back and play through mistakes as a rookie in his first game.
"He was going against a pretty good front, and I thought he stepped up and that's what you want to find out about people. He doesn't have the game that he probably envisioned to start. Neither did I. He comes back and that's what you find out about people. You don't find out about people until you have some kind of struggle, you don't find out about the culture of a team until you get back and there's no such thing as moral victories, but I do appreciate the way these guys fought."
Safety Richie Grant was selected in the second round out of UCF. He's a talented playmaker, but he's had the luxury of having two veteran safeties in Erik Harris and Duron Harmon in front of him.
"You look at Richie, Rich is having a big impact right now on special teams," Smith said. "We think Richie will have a long productive career. Erik and Duron are very smart, savvy vets. It's a long season. So the more you can build different personnel packages, the better off we'll be."
Falcons LISTEN: Trade Grady Jarrett?
Locked On Falcons: The Future of the Atlanta Falcons Pass Rush
Falcons Get Help in Latest Mock Draft
The Atlanta Falcons invest significantly in their defensive line while getting their quarterback of the future in Draft Wire's latest NFL Mock Draft.
LISTEN: Will Falcons Sell At Trade Deadline?
Locked On Falcons: Atlanta Falcons Red-Zone Improvement, Trade Rumors & Mailbag
For the Falcons to improve, the young players are going to need to improve quickly. Mayfield made a good step from the first to the second, and supporting young players through their mistakes is part of Smith's development plan.
Next up for the Falcons are the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Both teams are 0-2. Kickoff is set for Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.