Are the Atlanta Falcons a legitimate playoff contender? Come back and ask that question in September.
Atlanta is starting fresh with a new head coach, a new general manager, and a new direction with the organization. Gone are the days of Julio Jones. Enter the era of Kyle Pitts and Calvin Ridley.
Arthur Smith begins his first training camp with expectations for Atlanta to contend in the NFC South. Outside of Tampa Bay, every roster in the division has questions that might not be answered until the season's end.
Yes, Matt Ryan is still a high-end quarterback, but what about the rest of the roster? What are the biggest question marks going into the season that have yet to be answered?
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1. Ryan's New Formation
It'll be a new offensive scheme under Smith, who tends to run more 12-man - two tight-end - personnel than most. That will be a change for Ryan entering 2021. This isn't to say that Smith won't pass often, but there will be an expanded emphasis on the run game.
In a more balanced play-calling style, will Smith be able to get the best out of Ryan? It's evident during his time under both Mike Smith and Dan Quinn, the 36-year-old Ryan does better in his second season with the formation.
Will that be the case in 2021?
2. Davis Doubling His Duty?
As mentioned, Smith will have a more balanced approach when it comes to running his offense. During his final two seasons with Tennessee, the Falcons coach saw Derrick Henry lead the NFL in rushing.
Mike Davis isn't a clone of the 2,000-yard rusher, but is he ready to double his load from his time with the Panthers?
Outside of last season when filling in for Christian McCaffrey, Davis has been a quality No. 2 option. He's only surpassed 100 carries in a season twice, and both times were due to injuries.
For Smith's offense to work according to his standards, it requires a decent run game. Outside of Davis, the Falcons have Cordarrelle Patterson and Qadree Ollison. Davis will need to be the lead back for things to play in his favor.
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3. Who's No.2?
Let's not waste time since we know Ridley will take over as the leading receiver. One could argue that last season, coming off his first 1,000-yard campaign, he already cemented himself as the new No. 1
Alright, who is the No. 2?
Right now, it feels like it's Russell Gage's job to lose. Last season was a breakout year in which he recorded 786 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Other competitors include third-year wideout Olamide Zaccheaus and rookie Frank Darby from Arizona State.
A.J. Brown broke free in 2020 thanks the emergence of Corey Davis. Smith knows he needs a quality second option in the passing set for a strong year.
Kyle Pitts Leads Falcons to 30-28 Win at Dolphins
Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts posted a game-high 163 receiving yards against the Miami Dolphins.
WATCH: Falcons Pick Off Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa In End Zone Before Halftime
The Falcons come up with a big play heading into the locker room.
Falcons vs. Dolphins: Inactives & Injuries
A starting offensive lineman is inactive for the Atlanta Falcons in Week 7.
4. Pitts' Position
Where does one play Pitts in the offense?
Throughout OTAs, the No. 4 pick never lined up in the same position. They were day where he would play the outside boundary receiver. There were other formations where he would work inside as a big slot option.
Smith might have been just trying to find his footing to where the former Gator fits best. He also could be used as a chess piece for an offense that's just looking to keep teams on the edge of their feet.
Training camp should at least give fans a clear indication of where Pitts' role will be week to week.
5. Davidson Growth In Year 2?
Grady Jarrett is a top 10 defensive tackle in the game today. Outside his production, the defensive line as a whole is weak for Atlanta.
Maybe it doesn't have to be with the development of Marlon Davidson. The Auburn product wasn't able to show much during his rookie campaign. He was injured early and then had to be placed on the COVID-19 list.
When coming out into the draft, Davidson was projected to be a perfect fit for any 4-3 defensive front thanks to his pass-rush ability. He'll need to show that by the end of camp, otherwise, he could slowly begin to see his reps dwindle away.
6. The No. 2 CB?
A.J. Terrell wasn't a perfect rookie in coverage, but he was Atlanta’s best corner last fall. He returns with a full offseason and a chance to learn a style of defense that fits him better under the direction of Dean Peas.
Most teams in the NFC South have two quality receivers. So, who will play opposite Terrell in 2021?
Atlanta seems content with giving a shot to Isaiah Oliver, but only in the slot. The same thing could be said with Kendall Sheffield, who likely has seen a majority of snaps on the inside. Fabian Moreau joins the staff from Washington, but he never was able to find his footing in coverage.
One could argue the biggest need last draft season was cornerback for Atlanta's defense. It's still a need entering August.
7. Richie Grant's Services
Whenever drafting a rangy, ball-hawking safety, one has to imagine they will play some type of role early on. Maybe Grant isn't a full-time starter, but he wasn't drafted in the top 40 to sit on the bench.
Coming out of UCF, Grant was healed of being a center fielder type defender in coverage. It's why he recorded 10 interceptions, 17 passes defended, and five forced fumbles in three years with the Golden Knights.
Duron Harmon is expected to be heavily featured, as should Erik Harris. That doesn't mean Grant won't be working in some formations or play the dime defender role if Peas looks to go to a three-safety set.
Soon enough, Grant should be taking consistent reps with the first-team defense. The question though still remains, when will he surpass the player ahead of him?