ATL News / Sports

Falcons “fierce” training camp competition is hollow

The saying iron sharpens iron is as old as any, even appearing in the Bible. In this context, it means players make other players better through fierce competition; however, the Falcons are closer to a saying I just made up, lead sharpening lead — one of the world’s softest metals. Piecing together multiple reports coming out of Flowery Branch will give you the impression that competition is as menacing as ever, which could be accurate. Still, when two reserve-caliber players are battling, it means a whole lot less.

“That was by far one of the most competitive practices since I’ve been here,” Arthur Smith said after practice on Saturday, which even featured a pair of fights between players.

The Falcons wrapped up the first week of training camp over the weekend but not before Saturday’s practice was ended early following a pair of fights. Defensive tackle Jalen Dalton, who was released by the Saints earlier this offseason, was asked to leave after swinging at Germain Ifedi. It was quickly followed by Anthony Rush knocking Jonotthan Harrison to the ground after the whistle.

The Falcons front office has done a fantastic job acquiring the right players, the ones who want to be in Atlanta. And the coaching staff has done an equally impressive job providing a competitive environment, regardless of where on the depth chart the battle lies. But that doesn’t change the talent levels of the players.

Instead of being optimistic, I’m being realistic. The team just won’t be very good this season, but you wouldn’t know that if you took the players’ at their word. Veteran Casey Hayward questioned why the Falcons couldn’t surprise people and compete following the Matt Ryan trade. Grady Jarrett, one of the team’s few leaders, explained why he thinks the team is closer than people realize. Most recently, it’s second-year phenom Kyle Pitts telling reporters not to underestimate the Falcons, even going as far as to say the team can compete for a Super Bowl. But the role players also echo similar sentiments.

“I feel like we’re a playoff team,” Olamide Zaccheaus said via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We just (have) to put everything together. Really start fast at the beginning of the season and not get into a hole. I just feel like as a team, we can shock a lot of people.”

That sort of confidence starts at the top and resonates throughout the organizations, which includes the head coach, who recently compared the incredible success of the iPhone to the Falcons.

“Just go do a Google search, go look and see what they thought of the iPhone coming out if you want to humor yourself,” he told reporters. “It’s hard to find good comedy these days. Go back and look at those predictions if you want real comedy.”

Comparing the Falcons’ lowly expectations to the rise of the iPhone is quite bold. The device has been a revelation to the world and might be one of the single most profitable products in the history of capitalism. Apple is one of the most successful companies in the world, with a market cap of more than $2.5 trillion. Those are some lofty expectations for the Falcons, comical even. Atlanta isn’t going to turn things around this season or even next, but the cultural shift is palpable. Still, without tangible results, it’s just more of the same Dan Quinn rah rah this fanbase has heard for years.

As I said, it’s encouraging to see this culture shift, but without results, it means nothing. You have to produce.

Photographer: Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire

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