Yesterday was the seventh day of the Russell Athletic Atlanta Falcons Training Camp, and once again, there was a great turnout. People really do come from all over to see the Falcons in Flowery Branch.
Practice opened with special teams drills, specifically punt return. It's important to understand the priority that Mike Smith places on special teams performance. These special teams drills actually matter quite a bit for the guys who are battling for one of the available spots on the final roster, and performance and effort during these drills goes a long way toward convincing Smitty that a guy deserves a shot. Special teams can make or break a player's chances with the Falcons.
To that end, a lot of young players were in the end zone during these drills going through the motions of each snap despite the fact that they weren't actively involved in the drill. It seems like these players fully understand what's expected of them, and are willing to rise to the challenge.
The team went through a lot of the usual drills, but one thing they did differently was spend some time working through the offense backed up to their own one yard line, which was interesting.
Matt Ryan looks excellent in camp. But, don't take my word for it--check out this photo of his throwing motion.
And Knox Bardeen, the NFC South guy at Bleacher Report, will back me up on this.
Like the second-highest paid player in the NFL & worth the money >> RT @ArabGuwop: Knox, how is Matt Ryan looking?— Knox Bardeen (@knoxbardeen) August 2, 2013
Here's Dominique Davis, handing off to Jacquizz Rodgers.
Davis continues to look solid enough to lock up the backup spot. Renfree continues to look better than Doege, albeit slightly.
Steven Jackson is ridiculous. He really does look like an action figure.
A couple of the lesser-known players had a really good day yesterday. Fullback Patrick DiMarco, a third-year player out of the University of South Carolina, filled in for the injured Bradie Ewing, and looked effective as a lead blocker. In running back receiving drills, he also leaped for a pass that was significantly over his head for a beautiful reception.
Speaking of Ewing, as well as Antone Smith--both are expected to miss five to ten days with undisclosed injuries, but both were on the field and fully ambulatory. Neither was wearing pads or a helmet, but both stayed with their unit, and did some semblance of some of the drills at a walk-through speed. It doesn't look like either injury is anything to be concerned about, as it seems that keeping both Ewing and Smith out of practice short-term is just precautionary.
Another guy who had a good day was running back Ronnie Wingo.
For those who are concerned about reports on the one-on-one time Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford are getting with coaches, Julio Jones was pulled aside by assistant head coach Terry Robiskie to work one-on-one on technique yesterday, and, believe me, Julio is not struggling.
Roddy White had a really impressive catch that required some degree of laying out for it, and, of course, he made it look easy. In a coverage drill, he had a great catch in traffic.
Harry Douglas had an excellent day Thursday. Fingertip catches, catches in traffic--he was doing pretty much everything well.
Rashad Evans, a rookie out of Fresno State, is a little undersized (5'9", 187 pounds) but he's confident, quick and has good hands. Martel Moore and Marcus Jackson continue to impress.
Levine Toilolo snatched a catch from over the heads of defenders in traffic, and everyone around me said, oh, that's why we drafted him.
How do you defend this guy? Toilolo is tall. pic.twitter.com/iFJIu69lZ4— FalconsBlitz (@Falconsblitz) August 2, 2013
Chase Coffman and Tommy Gallarda both had good practices yesterday.
Joe Hawley has taken some first team snaps at center and right guard, so take that how you will.
Lamar Holmes has gotten pushed around quite a bit out there, and Mike Johnson remains the leader in the right tackle battle.
The second and third team units are definitely a work in progress.
The base 4-3 looked like this in 11-on-11 drills for the first team unit:
Osi Umenyiora, Peria Jerry, Corey Peters, Jonathan Babineaux
Sean Weatherspoon, Akeem Dent, Stephen Nicholas
Asante Samuel, Thomas DeCoud, William Moore, Desmond Trufant
The second team base 4-3 was:
Malliciah Goodman, Travian Robertson, Cliff Matthews, Stansly Maponga
Robert James, Brian Banks, Kroy Biermann
Robert McClain, Shann Schillinger, Zeke Motta, Robert Alford
In 11-on-11 drills the offense primarily deployed running plays, and, yes, Babineaux has been lining up on the outside some, and, yes, the Househusband (aka Biermann) has been taking second team snaps at outside linebacker. Both of them look fine in these unusual roles.
Also, Mike Nolan shed some light on Osi Umenyiora at outside linebacker.
If people were getting upset that Osi Umenyiora might stand up, #Falcons DC Mike Nolan said that's mostly to defend read option.— John Manasso (@jmanasso) August 1, 2013
You may be surprised to see that Cliff Matthews has been lining up on the interior defensive line, but he put on some weight for this season (not Phillipkeith Manley weight, but he's bulked up) and he seems to be competent at defensive tackle.
Malliciah Goodman is showing his prowess against the second and third team offensive linemen.
Malliciah Goodman is tearing through thr second & third team OL in drills. #Falcons— Knox Bardeen (@knoxbardeen) August 1, 2013
And rookie defensive end Brandon Thurman had a good day Thursday.
Rookie DE Brandon Thurmond gets an interception and the defense goes nuts cheering "Rook!" #aftc13— Morgan (@FalconsMorgan) August 1, 2013
Akeem Dent is much improved from training camp last season. He looks very natural in the position. He jumped up to deflect a pass yesterday, and had really good timing.
William Moore has been making some really good adjustments on running downs in 11-on-11 drills. The Falcons must be tougher against the run this season, so anything that we see in camp or preseason that points to an improvement is encouraging. Also encouraging is the fact that Thomas DeCoud has looked particularly good in coverage.
I like Kemal Ishmael a lot. He has a ton of potential. He's fast, he has good instincts, and he's good in coverage. He may turn out to be a real bargain as a 7th rounder.
Asante Samuel was on fire yesterday. He dropped one interception in the end zone, but made up for it with another interception later, and his coverage was really tight. He's also exhibiting leadership, trying to help out Trufant on the field.
Asante Samuel just called out a route to Trufant from across the field. #Falcons— John Manasso (@jmanasso) August 1, 2013
As far as Trufant, Mike Nolan isn't concerned. Trufant is getting better. He isn't as physical as Robert Alford, but it looks like he's trying to adjust his game in that direction. If a receiver pushes off, he has a hard time recovering, so being more physical would probably help him adjust more quickly. In coverage drills, at first I thought he was just playing too far off Julio Jones to maintain adequate coverage, but each defensive back had the same starting point for each drill, and it turns out that Julio Jones is just incredible. Trufant is getting better, and the negative reports about his performance thus far seems to be motivating him.
#Falcons rookie CB Desmond Trufant started screaming "keep hating, keep hating" after breaking up a pass intended for Harry Douglas.— D. Orlando Ledbetter (@AJCFalcons) August 1, 2013
One indication of how motivated Trufant is--he traded places in line with another player so that he could go one-on-one with Julio Jones again after being burned by him previously. I respect that.
Robert Alford looked good yesterday.
Robert Alford just showed great speed to catch up w/ Roddy White & break up a pass over the middle #Falcons— Knox Bardeen (@knoxbardeen) August 1, 2013
Things can get terrifying at training camp in a hurry if there are spiders involved.
Hey, illusiveflaw, here's the Game Changer sandwich.
You can check out all of the Falcons photos from training camp.
If you can, make plans to come to Gainesville this evening for Friday Night Lights. Sean Weatherspoon wants you to be there.