Thursday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Atlanta Falcons in their second preseason game. To help preview this week's game, I reached out to Dave Choate from The Falcoholic and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: “Alex Mack decided to opt out of his contract with the Browns this offseason to sign with the Atlanta Falcons. How has Mack been in his short time with Atlanta?”
Dave: “Thus far, everything's been positive with Mack. He's that rare free agent that has very few questions beyond dollars and maybe age, so the fact that he hasn't stood out isn't really noteworthy, and he's looked like easily the best center on the roster even so. Unfortunately, your loss is Atlanta's gain, which his an especially big relief after a few years of mediocre center play.”
Chris: “Kyle Shanahan was a controversial figure in Cleveland two years ago as the team's offensive coordinator, and it seemed like things weren't all sunshine and rainbows with him in Atlanta last year. Can you summarize how the Falcons' fan base feels about Shanahan?”
Dave: “There are decidedly mixed feelings when it comes to Shanahan, and I would say the fanbase leans a little bit toward actively hating him. There is a sense that he deliberately torpedoed Roddy White's career in Atlanta, that his scheme wound up hurting Matt Ryan, and that he's simply too arrogant to see his faults. I tend to think a second year and improved offensive cast will help Shanahan look better, but certainly it would be fair to say that I'm a little wary of how assured he is.”
Chris: “Which of the Falcons' six draft picks, if any, are projected to start to begin the 2016 season?”
Dave: “There's going to be two starters, and possibly three, in this group. Safety Keanu Neal is guaranteed a starting job, and he's looked very good in camp, though tonight will be his preseason debut. Second round pick Deion Jones is anticipated to starter at middle linebacker and brings a ton of speed and real physicality to that role, though no one expects him to be tremendous right off the bat. Then there's fourth round linebacker De'Vondre Campbell, who has been genuinely impressive in camp and one preseason game thus far, and who does have a shot to grab a spot. We're genuinely excited about this draft class.”
Chris: “Mohamed Sanu was a big free agent signing for the Falcons. I know that "only time will tell," but do you think the Falcons might have made a mistake investing so much money in him to be their No. 2 receiver?”
Dave: “That's a common sentiment among Falcons fans. Sanu simply never produced at a high level in Cincinnati for very long, so while he's versatile and Kyle Shanahan clearly believes he's going to be an asset for the offense, I think it's completely fair to be wary. At the very least, he'll have a larger role in the offense than Roddy White did as the second receiver last year.”
Chris: “Tell us about one player on offense and one player on defense who is relatively unknown in the NFL, but who has been turning heads in this year's camp.”
Dave: “[De'Vondre] Campbell would be that guy on defense. He's shown impressive athleticism, he's a hard-nosed player, and his coverage skills have seemed very advanced for a fourth round rookie linebacker. On offense, it's Justin Hardy, last year's fourth round receiver and a guy who has impressed early. He'll be the third receiver in Atlanta this year.”
Thanks again to Dave for taking the time to answer my questions.