Atlanta Falcons on 'Hard Knocks': 6 Reasons to Feature Them This Season
"Hard Knocks" has been on since the Ravens 2001 training camp, albeit with a hiatus from 2003-2006 and during the 2011 lockout season, and has been one of the highest rated shows about the NFL since its inception.
"Hard Knocks" has come to the Atlanta Falcons with the notion that the team should be the next team to be featured on the show, and honestly, it's not that bad of an idea. The last three teams who have been on "Hard Knocks" have finished with winning records and in the playoffs.
The biggest argument against the Falcons doing "Hard Knocks" is that it would disrupt the offseason programs with a distraction of being on television. While there is a lot of concern about that, the Falcons have one of the most mature teams in the NFL.
Out of the entire group of 62 players who are currently under contract, only two players have been arrested to this point, starting defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux and starting safety William Moore. Babineaux was arrested on drug charges but has since been cleared, and Moore was arrested for traffic related offenses.
The Falcons have a veteran roster with a large group of mature individuals, and the next concern that teams would have about the Falcons is whether the team would actually be entertaining. On that accord, there are multiple storylines that would make the Falcons the right team for "Hard Knocks."
Rookies Trying to Make the Roster
The first and easily most obvious storyline would be following rookies and their attempt to make the NFL roster on this veteran team. Atlanta has just six draft picks, but they could very easily end up with a large influx of rookie free agents with the roster limit being 80 players in training camp.
With over 15 rookies in training camp this year, this could be one of the most interesting storylines for the Falcons on "Hard Knocks."
The Camp Battle for Middle Linebacker
Akeem Dent and Lofa Tatupu are going to compete for the starting middle linebacker spot for the Falcons, and one of the most interesting things about this is the idea that Dent is going to be the Falcons long-term starter at the MLB spot where Tatupu at most will be the short-term starter.
The Offensive Line's Open Competition
One of the biggest things that will be in play is the open competition all across the offensive line. Every position has a unique battle that could be interesting in the long term for the Falcons, and the only positions that are likely just formalities when it comes to camp battles are the left guard and right tackle spots, which are manned by Justin Blalock and Tyson Clabo.
At left tackle right now, there is the combination of Sam Baker, the former first-rounder, and Will Svitek, a guy who played defensive end in college. The Falcons will have a fierce battle here, especially if they decide to draft someone to compete behind them like Kelechi Osemele, Donald Stephenson or Mitchell Schwartz.
At center, there is the pairing of Todd McClure, the 12-year starter in the middle of the Falcons line, and Joe Hawley, the man drafted to be his eventual replacement. McClure signed a one-year contract this offseason, but could very easily be dethroned by Hawley who performed just as well when McClure was out.
At right guard, there is the largest group for battle. Mike Johnson was depth the past two years but with the new scheme could very well win the job. Another guy who is in the battle is Andrew Jackson, Pat Hill's former starting right guard at Fresno State. And then the final member of the battle at this point is Vince Manuwai, the long-term left guard from the Jaguars who can end up starting at right guard for Atlanta.
Tony Gonzalez Mentoring His Eventual Replacement
Who wouldn't want to watch a future Hall of Fame tight end training his eventual replacement during training camp? With the personality that Tony Gonzalez has, this could be the best part of the show.
Atlanta has shown interest in multiple tight ends for this year's draft and could very well take one in the second or third round as the eventual replacement for Gonzalez. It would be very interesting to see how "Gonzo" takes the young TE under his wing to show him the intricacies of the NFL game.
Abraham, Spoon, Decoud and "D-Block"
John Abraham, Sean Weatherspoon and Thomas Decoud are the leaders at their levels of defense. This could be a lot of fun though because the Falcons defense isn't short on personality or players who love the game.
Weatherspoon has a fun-loving personality that shows through in his play, and Decoud shows aggression that most other free safeties in Atlanta have never shown. Abraham will always be the predator, and it will be great to see how he relates with his fellow linemen.
And on "D-Block," the Falcons linebacking corps, it will be amazing to see how Weatherspoon takes it over as his own group and who steps in to be his right-hand man. It wouldn't shock to see someone like Akeem Dent not just win the MLB job, but also end up as Spoon's right-hand man.
Roddy White and the Wide Receiver Corps
The biggest and best reason out there is Roddy White. White is one of the biggest characters out there, and his wide receiver colleagues look up to him as he is the most consistent veteran wide receiver in the NFL. He is the only NFL receiver with five straight years with over 80 catches, 1,100 yards and six touchdowns.
White is known for his insane tweets and his loud brash attitude. He would be fun to get to know on the show, and it would be great to see how Julio Jones, Harry Douglas and any other receivers brought in through the draft and free agency learn from one of the top wide receivers in the NFL.