Paul Worrilow will be pressed hard by rookie Deion Jones for starting role

The Atlanta Falcons open training camp on July 28 at their home facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia. Here's a starting lineup projection:


Quarterback (Matt Ryan): Ryan has thrown for more than 4,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in each of the past five seasons, although he's coming off a poor overall showing in 2015.

Running back (Devonta Freeman): Freeman was a fantasy hero last season while tying for the league lead with 14 total touchdowns en route to the Pro Bowl.

Fullback (Patrick DiMarco): A first-time Pro Bowler last year, DiMarco helped open holes in the run game and also contributed two touchdown catches.

Receiver (Julio Jones): Arguably the best receiver in the league, Jones posted the second-highest, single-season total for receiving yards with 1,871 yards on 136 catches.

Receiver (Mohamed Sanu): Newcomer who spent his first four seasons in Cincinnati, Sanu had a career-high 56 receptions for 790 yards and five touchdowns in 2014.

Tight end (Jacob Tamme): Steady contributor in first season with the Falcons last year, Tamme is coming off a 59-catch season. Rookie Austin Hooper could start here depending on personnel grouping.

Left tackle (Jake Matthews): Former first-round draft pick continues to show flashes, but he needs to be consistent and play up to his tremendous potential.

Left guard (Andy Levitre): Veteran acquired in a trade last season got pushed around too much. Levitre had a team-leading 11 penalties last season.

Center (Alex Mack): A three-time Pro Bowler with the Cleveland Browns, Mack brings immediate stability to a position where the Falcons sorely needed help.

Right guard (Chris Chester): Veteran who started every game last season and was unsure about his future after offseason shoulder surgery but is back for another year. Rookie Wes Schweitzer could surpass Chester for the starting job.

Right tackle (Ryan Schraeder): A former undrafted player, Schraeder has evolved into a solid starter who will fight with anyone. Just needs to be consistent.


Defensive end (Derrick Shelby): Newcomer previously with the Miami Dolphins has impressed defensive coordinator Richard Smith with his rushes and ability to stop the run. Shelby's versatility should earn him plenty of reps.

Nose tackle (Grady Jarrett): Although a knee injury limited Jarrett some this offseason, he still possesses outstanding explosiveness and could be a true impact player.

Defensive tackle (Tyson Jackson): The veteran has made the transition from defensive end to defensive tackle and Jackson always contributes strength up front.

Defensive end (Brooks Reeed): The coaches insist there will be a new and improved version of Reed in 2016 after he slimmed down and went through the offseason injury-free. Adrian Clayborn will be counted upon in pass-rush situation, but he is not a run-stuffer.

Linebacker (Vic Beasley): Beasley will transition to the Sam linebacker role but will continue to be an edge rusher in nickel downs coming off a four-sack rookie season.

Linebacker (Paul Worrilow): The team's leading tackler the past three seasons will be pressed hard by rookie Deion Jones and is likely to be replaced by Jones in nickel situations.

Linebacker (De'Vondre Campbell): Rookie might be a key element on defense if he truly can use his speed and length to cover tight ends, as advertised.

Cornerback (Desmond Trufant): Pro Bowl corner has emerged as one of the league's best while continuing to perfect his technique and rely on his speed.

Cornerback (Robert Alford): Alford has gotten plenty of reps covering the slot in preparation for that role in the nickel, with Akeem King, C.J. Goodwin or DeMarcus Van Dyke playing outside until Jalen Collins returns from a four-game suspension.

Strong safety (Keanu Neal): The rookie first-round pick showed more speed than initially expected during offseason workouts. He also possesses great leadership qualities.

Free safety (Ricardo Allen): Converted cornerback evolved into the team's best tackler last season and recorded a team-high three interceptions in 2015.