That word has been echoed around the Atlanta Falcons since the arrival of Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith's regime. Nothing is given for free around here.
If that wasn't known before, it has definitely come into full effect now.
However, with the arrival of former Alabama QB John Parker Wilson...DJ Shockley and Chris Redman know that competition is here. Last year, they were Ryan's insurance policy- this year, that may change.
"How so?" you ask?
Well, simply put, many things can change in one year. Don't believe me? Ask the Falcons. Last year this time many expected them to win only one game. Many predicted that they would be drafting in the top five, or No. 1 overall. That was a year ago.
The Falcons drafted 24th overall.
Many said that Matt Ryan was a reach and that Glen Dorsey should have been taken. That too, was a year ago.
Now, Matt Ryan could have possibly just completed the best rookie season for a QB ever.
What is the point?
Things change. Whether we like it or not.
So there would be good reason for a rookie, or free agent to come into the Falcons organization with hopes of starting. The Falcons have shown themselves to being impartial when it comes to who starts. They are not emotionally tied to certain players. They want the best on the field at all times. This was displayed when Keith Brooking, a long time Falcon and hometown guy was let go. It was nothing personal. But they could do better. They moved on.
Lets take a look at some position battles of interest that will take place this year for the Falcons.
DJ Shockey vs Chris Redman vs John Parker Wilson
Chris Redman is currently the clear No. 2 guy behind Ryan. He's a veteran who has been around for some time and can still help Ryan out when the time comes. I don't think Redman will budge honestly. I think he'll remain second in line behind Ryan because of his experience. However, his contract is almost up. The Falcons will have to soon decide who is more efficient- Chris Redman, or DJ Shockley.
Shockley brings something to the table that most QB's typically don't have. He offers mobility. When the pocket collapses, this is the guy you want behind your center. He has shown the ability to be at times elusive and get out of sticky situations using is feet.
However, he is somewhat of a streaky passer. He has a strong arm that can haul the ball down the field with the flick of the wrist. But, that means nothing when the ball ends up miles away from your receiver. If Shockey could become more accurate, and remain healthy he could find himself as a good quality backup behind a potential Hall of Fame QB in Ryan.
John Parker Wilson is the new kid on the block. If he can show that he can minimize his mistakes and learn from them he could end up competing for the No. 3 spot. It would also be good for him to display leadership skills, and respect his teammates. This may seem like something trivial but it really matters.
Thomas Dimitroff came from the highly knowledgeable Patriots organization. He didn't spend six years there for nothing. If John Parker Wilson can show that he is a leader, respectable, and ready for bigger and better things, don't be surprised if he is used as a trade bait.
Matt Cassell anyone?
Another position battle of interest will be the safety position.
Thomas DeCoud vs William Moore
William Moore had an outstanding junior campaign in college and was looked at as a top ten draft pick. However, with an average senior year his stock plummeted and landed him in the second round to the Falcons.
But, if Moore can get back to his former ways, and display that ball-hawking ability he may end up being a steal. He has drawn comparisons to Brian Dawkins because of his tackling style and passion for the game. If Moore can show that he is indeed the real deal, the Falcons may have a legit replacement for Milloy in place for the next decade.
Thomas DeCoud was drafted in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Coming out of college he was compared to Reggie Nelson, how he fearlessly sacrificed his body into opponents. He did a tremendous job on special teams and if he can have the same effect at the strong safety position, DeCoud may be a force to be reckoned with. He had a year to sit behind Lawyer Milloy and learn the etiquette's of being a safety. If he learned anything last year, he needs to make it known.
Chris Owens vs Chevis Jackson vs Chris Houston
Chris Owens had a college career similar to Nnamdi Asomugha's NFL career. For a while, QB's refused to throw the ball on Owen's side of the field. He was that good. However, on a professional level, Chris Owens lacks a few things. One being his height. He's only 5'9 and will have trouble defending some of the taller receivers in the league.
He also didn't play against top notch competition in college. However, outside of that he has great anticipation for the ball, and excellent recovery speed. He can pretty much read the receivers eyes and determine the play, putting himself in position for a pass deflection or interception.
If Owens can prove that he can do this on the Pro level, he will be a gem. There is a reason he was taken in the third round...someone had this guy high on their list. I believe his name might be Thomas Dimitroff who has a knack for finding good corners. If he can handle the NFL, he may emerge as a starter sooner than many expect.
Chevis Jackson had a good rookie season to be selected in the third round. He ran his first interception back for a touchdown against the Saints last year and he had interception in the playoff game against the Cardinals. He seems to have a nose for the ball and is always around it.
The only thing holding him up would be his speed. Speed can make or break a NFL corner, because once you have been beaten on a route, there is no turning back for some. It appears Jackson may end up settling for the nickel slot for the Falcons, which isn't so bad when you think about what fits his skill level.
Chris Houston and Chevis Jackson may be opposites when you consider what both bring to the table. Chris Houston is a fast guy. Before he came into the league, at the combine he was considered one of, if not the fastest corner in the draft. He is relatively small, but he is very strong.
Houston's problem lies with his defensive awareness. He doesn't seem to have any. He can't get his head turned around when playing a receiver. If he is left on an island with a top receiver then look out! I like Houston has a corner, and I believe he's solid, but not quite a No. 1 guy. Obviously the Falcons aren't too sure either. They have drafted three corners since Houston has taken over the starting corner position.
Fact is, I could go on and on about the position battles for the Falcons this year. The defensive end position appears to have a considerable amount of depth. The offensive line also may have some new battles taking place. But there is one thing we can be sure of, the Falcons will have their best men on the field.
Everyone will have an opportunity to showcase their skills and prove what they can do.
All they have to do is compete.
It is a process.
A process that started a year ago, and continues to contribute heavily to the success of this franchise.
Who will start this year? Only time will tell.
In the meantime, let us look to training camp and the preseason as the final deciding factors that will determine the outcome of who suits up on Sundays.