Five things to watch at OTAs

May, 26, 2014
May 26
8:00
AM ET
The Atlanta Falcons begin organized team activities this week, and the media will be allowed to watch Wednesday's session.

Here are five things to watch as the veterans and rookies get together:

1. Steven Jackson's passion: The veteran running back wrote a blog recently and reflected on last season and how he and the team needed to do better this year. He also tweeted about welcoming new competition. Well, Jackson could be pushed by fourth-round draft pick Devonta Freeman from Florida State, a guy the Falcons view as a three-down back. Jackson, who turns 31 in July, wasn't fully healthy last season. Being pushed by a youngster might make all those bumps and bruises from over the years go away quickly.

2. Lamar Holmes' improvement: Yes, Lamar Holmes. This is why: If Sam Baker's knee doesn't hold up following surgery, then the Falcons would have to move rookie first-round pick Jake Matthews over to left tackle and rely on Holmes on the right side. Holmes has been far from reliable so far, but the Falcons still have faith in him moving forward, provided he is in shape. Getting beat up last season was a good learning experience. Now Holmes has to stay in it, mentally, in case he's called upon.

3. Jonathan Massaquoi's pass rush: Since the Falcons didn't go after a true pass-rusher in free agency or the draft, the onus is on Massaquoi to take another step forward in terms of getting pressure on quarterbacks. He'll have to adjust to playing outside linebacker in the base 3-4 scheme. But no matter the defensive alignment, Massaquoi simply has to be relentless with his rush. Last year, he finished with four sacks which wasn't bad, considering he played 50.7 percent of the defensive snaps. Although it's just practice, Massaquoi still could show something during OTAs.

4. Devin Hester's role: Don't expect the Falcons to show their full offensive repertoire right now, but it will be interesting to see how many offensive plays the newcomer Hester gets during OTAs. Hester, arguably the greatest return man of all time, was signed to make an impact on special teams. However, he has the ability to create mismatches on offense as a jitter bug working out of the slot. Hester didn't play offense in Chicago last season in large part because he had a quarterback who berated him more often than not. That won't happen with Matt Ryan.

5. Roddy White's mindset: The veteran receiver is coping with a devastating tragedy as his younger brother was murdered in South Carolina. The funeral was just last week, and no one should tell anyone how long to grieve. Therapy for some people involves getting back to work, while others find it too hard to focus under such circumstances. Whatever the case, the Falcons should be delicate with White during this difficult time. Not seeing White on the field for the start of OTAs wouldn't be a surprise, although he surely wants to be around his teammates for support.

Vaughn McClure

ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter

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