Falcons Countdown to Camp: QBs, RBs

Falcons Countdown to Camp: QBs, RBs

Jay Adams

Published July 8, 2013 at 8:30 AM

Russell Athletic Atlanta Falcons Training Camp is around the corner, beginning July 25, and AtlantaFalcons.com will take you through some of the need-to-know information for all position groups, including additions, departures and key battles.

Starting quarterback Matt Ryan has a very different looking meeting room this year than he did a year ago. With longtime teammates Chris Redman and John Parker Wilson gone now, Ryan has taken the change in dynamic in stride, clearly embracing a leadership role ahead of three quarterbacks with just one year of NFL experience behind him.
Veterans: Matt Ryan, Dominique Davis
Departures: Luke McCown
Additions: Sean Renfree (seventh-round pick), Seth Doege (college free agent)
Key Battle: Ryan has the starting spot on lockdown — we all know that. Behind him, however, it gets a little interesting. Dominique Davis is looking to lock up the No. 2 spot and he’s got the upper hand, being the only quarterback behind Ryan with a year of NFL experience. Renfree and Doege (pronounced DAY-gee) are also in the mix. Renfree became a starter at Duke as a sophomore in 2010 and was named the team’s MVP that season. In 2011, he became one of the team’s captains and threw for 2,891 yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. As a senior, Renfree set Duke’s single-season pass completion record and threw for 3,113 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Doege became Texas Tech’s starting QB in 2011, his junior year, and set a Division I record for highest completion percentage of a quarterback throwing 40 or more passes. He went 40-for-44 (90.9 percent) against New Mexico that year. Doege finished his senior year third in the NCAA in passing yards with 4,205 and second in touchdown passes with 39.

The star role looks much different this year with nine-year veteran Steven Jackson — previously of the Rams — taking over the main carry duties. Behind him, things look interesting as some younger players could try to squeeze their way onto the roster, one way or another.
Veterans: Jason Snelling, Antone Smith, Jacquizz Rodgers, Josh Vaughan
Departures: Michael Turner
Additions: Steven Jackson (nine-year veteran), Donald Russell (college free agent), Ronnie Wingo (college free agent)
Key Battle: Things are crowded at this position, especially when you figure in that all of the running back spots that were taken up last year were held by returning players, with the exception of the team swapping Jackson in for Turner, who was released at the end of the season. Snelling, Smith and Rodgers were the three main ballcarriers, with Vaughan spending the year on the practice squad. Russell and Wingo come in hoping to move ahead of one of them to earn a more permanent spot on the roster. While Jackson and Rodgers will look to get most of the touches, Snelling provides a different dynamic defenses will have to watch for and Smith is a special teams ace. The question in the end is who gets the ball more, but for training camp, the question is whether any shift in lineup can be influenced by the two college rookies. Wingo, a tall running back at 6-foot-3 from Arkansas, is a dual threat out of the backfield to catch and carry. Russell spent some time at Kentucky before transferring to Georgia State, where he set a school record for 201 rushing yards in one game.

The fullback position is right back where it was last year with high expectations of now-second-year player Bradie Ewing. Ewing suffered a knee injury last preseason after being selected by the Falcons in the 2012 draft and missed the entire regular season. Now 100 percent healthy, he’ll have a fight on his hands.
Veterans: Bradie Ewing (second-year player)
Departures: Mike Cox
Additions: Patrick DiMarco (free agency), Devonte Campbell (college free agent)
Key Battle: Head coach Mike Smith has raved about Ewing’s progress since suffering a season-ending knee injury during the preseason last year. The talk has been of Ewing being ahead of schedule and at 100 percent heading into training camp. The question is, will he have to fight for his job? Of course, Smith says there’s competition at every position, and this definitely falls into that category. With two players at the position almost on even footing — with DiMarco spending a year with the Kansas City Chiefs and Ewing learning from the sideline. The wildcard is college free agent Devonte Campbell, who is trying to make the transition from tight end — the position he played at Maryland — to fullback.

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