In his first year as Atlanta Falcons head coach, Arthur Smith is dealing with players on both ends of the spectrum. He knows he has some built-in team leaders established, and he expects several more to step up as they are getting a fresh start with the new regime.
And at the same time? Atlanta is churning the bottom of its training camp roster.
The churn? The latest move involves the signing of linebacker Tuzar Skipper, a former Steelers, Giants and Titans special-teamer who has a rep for preseason success in his short career.
A "preseason superstar,'' he can be called.
Meanwhile, back at the top of the totem pole ...
"We'll see kinda who emerges," said Smith. "Obviously we have high expectations for Matt and Grady. Guys that have been through it; guys that will work and have the right mindset."
"And that was obvious from Day 1, and then you've got to prove it every year. That's the thing about Matt Ryan, Grady Jarrett, they're out here to prove it. Those guys have had good careers, but they want to be coached. They want to get better."
Ryan and Grady were the obvious answers. Ryan is in his 14th season with the Falcons and owns every meaningful franchise passing record. Grady is a two-time Pro Bowler and one of the most charismatic characters on the team.
But Smith knows it will take more than just Ryan and Jarrett, and he's confident there will be more leaders on the Falcons.
"There will be guys that emerge,'' he said. "That are real leaders. Not someone you just put a 'C' on their chest to appease people."
There are high-profile rookies on each side of the ball in tight end Kyle Pitts and safety Richie Grant. Grant is a natural leader and could be a candidate to step into that role.
But the rookies have bigger concerns. When asked about the first day for the rookies, Smith deadpanned, "I was just happy that most of them got through it to be honest. Some of them looked like they were going to fall out.''