FLOWERY BRANCH — All four of Atlanta’s quarterbacks are expected to play in Thursday night’s preseason opener against Washington, setting a pattern of frequent substitutions that should follow at other positions.
Matt Ryan and top backup Matt Schaub will be the first two quarterbacks in the game, followed by Sean Renfree and Matt Sims. Ryan and other starters are expected to have limited playing time.
“We’re looking forward to everybody getting to be a part of this game and getting an evaluation on everybody, all four QBs,” coach Dan Quinn said Tuesday.
The preseason opener will feature rookies, including tight end Austin Hooper, who is pushing starter Jacob Tamme.
“It’s kind of a really cool night and really devoted toward them as they’re getting their NFL careers started with their first preseason game,” Quinn said. “It’s an important one for all, but especially for them.”
Quinn isn’t planning to substitute full units together. Some first- and second-team players may remain on the field longer.
Linebacker, wide receiver and tight end have emerged as the deepest and most competitive positions in training camp.
The team’s unofficial depth chart lists Vic Beasley Jr., Paul Worrilow and Sean Weatherspoon as the starting linebackers in the Falcons’ base defense. Rookies Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell could move into the first unit.
The competition at receiver includes a battle between Mohamed Sanu and Justin Hardy for the No. 2 spot behind Julio Jones. Sanu has had some drops in practice while Hardy, a second-year player, has been impressive with his sideline grabs and ability to soar for catches over the middle.
“Both guys are doing very great for us,” Jones said. “We’re going to compete. It doesn’t matter, I mean, they compete against me, I compete against them. It’s not just Justin and Sanu competing. It’s all of us competing.”
There appears to be good depth at receiver even after veterans Roddy White and Devin Hester were released and Herman Moore signed with the team for only one practice before retiring this week.
Rookie Devin Fuller, Aldrick Robinson, Corey Washington, Nick Williams, J.D. McKissic, David Glidden and others are competing with Eric Weems for spots behind Jones, Sanu and Hardy.
“That’s what we want, to keep getting that competition strong where it’s really tough and guys are pushing one another,” Quinn said.
The plan also calls for some players, including linebackers, to be used at more than one spot.
“We love putting them in pressure spots to see how they respond and moving them and playing them in more than one position to see what they can handle,” Quinn said. “It’s a great test and one we fully intend to put guys in different spots.”
The team’s top draft pick, safety Keanu Neal, is listed as a starter but could be held out with a “trunk” nerve injury not believed to be serious. Tight end Levine Toilolo (hand) and running back Terron Ward (ankle) also could be held out.
Quinn has not said if newly signed defensive end Dwight Freeney will play.