This preseason is shaping up to be an exciting one for the Atlanta Falcons.
After making the playoffs in 2008, the coaching staff’s first year in Atlanta, head coach Mike Smith and company have high expectations entering 2009.
Along with expectations comes the responsibility to make tough decisions that you feel will improve the team’s personnel.
The Falcons seem to have done everything right during the off-season trading for TE Tony Gonzalez, signing LB Mike Peterson to replace the departed Keith Brooking, and drafted players that will step in to fill holes left by free agency.
However, there are some positions on the Falcons squad that have yet to be nailed down by a veteran or rookie.
The first position battle to keep an eye on is Chris Redman vs. DJ Shockley to see who will back up QB Matt Ryan.
Chris Redman has held down the position the last two years, making a few starts along the way in 2007. Redman was 1-3 over the last four weeks of 2007, completing 59.7 percent of his passes for 1,079 yards 10 TDs and five INTs, giving him a 90.4 QB rating.
Shockley, who has yet to attempt a pass in the NFL, has pushed his way up the depth chart since he returned from a knee injury in 2007. Shockley possesses the dual-threat style of play that could land him in the backup role.
Prediction: I believe that after the dust settles, Redman will remain the No. 2 QB, but it will be a close competition.
When the Falcons did not re-sign “Big” Grady Jackson after the 2008 season, it left a huge hole at the defensive tackle position.
To help fill the void, the Falcons drafted Peria Jerry out of Ole Miss with their first-round pick and Vance Walker out of Georgia Tech with their seventh-round pick.
Jonathon Babineaux, who played at one defensive tackle position in 2008, recorded 39 tackles and three-and-a-half sacks last season and is sure to land one of the DT positions.
Also competing with Jerry, Walker, and Babineaux for the Defensive Tackle positions are Trey Lewis, Jason Jefferson, and Thomas Johnson.
Prediction: As long as the Falcons can get first-round pick Jerry signed, he along with Babineaux will start at the DTs for Atlanta.
At the left cornerback position, Brent Grimes will enter fall camp as the starter, but he will have one heck of a fight on his hands with rookie Chris Owens.
Grimes started the first six games of the 2008 season before losing his job to Domonique Foxworth, who signed with the Baltimore Ravens in the off-season.
To help with the departure of Foxworth the Falcons drafted Owens, who is out of San Jose State, with their 3rd round selection.
Prediction: Rookie Chris Owens will win this competition and it should not be close.
The strong safety position is another position the Falcons decided to cut loose some leadership and experience in Lawyer Milloy.
Instead of Milloy, the Falcons will let Thomas DeCoud and rookie William Moore battle it out to see who will be laying the wood in 2009.
DeCoud is a second-year player out of California who saw action in 10 games in 2008 totaling six tackles.
Moore, who was drafted in the second round out of Mizzou, is known as a ball hawk. He recorded a total of 11 INTs taking four to the house in his college career. One asset he brings to the table is his 4.5-4.6 speed in the 40-yard dash.
Prediction: Moore will start at SS simply because he brings a combination of speed and power to the Falcon defensive backfield that they have missed for quite some time.
This pre-season should be exciting to watch as these battles unfold in practice and on the field. One thing is for sure, coach Smith is not afraid to start a rookie (QB Matt Ryan) and whoever he feels is the best at each position will be on the field.