The Falcons took it a little bit easier for practice today following the big preseason victory over the Dolphins on Friday night. It was a shorter practice than the Falcons typically have, just an hour and 45 minutes long, and it was not a padded practice.
Because the players were not in pads there was no contact to speak of, which limits our ability to learn a whole lot about where the players stand from this particular practice. The team spent individual drills really working on technique. Special teams coach Keith Armstrong worked the special teams guys pretty hard Saturday, which is reasonable based on the lapses we saw on the field on Friday.
The Falcons did quite a bit of red zone work, and Ryan looked very good, particularly when throwing to Julio Jones. Jones had two touchdown receptions in red zone drills.
It was nice to see Pat Angerer and Dwight Lowery back on the field. Both suffered concussions at different points last week, and are currently at the same stage of the NFL's concussion protocol. Terren Jones is not yet cleared to fully practice, but he was on the field with his teammates today. It was a pleasant surprise to see him after watching him removed from the field strapped to a backboard following his injury.
Speaking of injuries, outside linebacker Jacques Smith and safety Kimario McFadden, both of whom suffered injuries during Friday's preseason matchup with the Dolphins, both returned to practice today.
Desmond Trufant had a really physical pick on a long pass toward the end of practice. It was fun to watch him make the read. Trufant knew he was picking off that ball before the receiver even considered it as a possibility.
There's not much to report here. Non-padded practices don't really reveal a ton of mistakes or weaknesses. Levine Toilolo did have a few drops, but also had a couple of really nice catches, and he spent some extra time after practice catching balls.
Mike Smith said after practice that Roddy White was excused from practice for a scheduled day of rest. White will be back at practice on Monday.
Tim Dobbins is dealing with an ankle injury sustained during Friday's game, and Coach Smith said after practice that Dobbins should be back in a day or two, so it's nothing major.
There has been no sign of Gabe Carimi, who is dealing with an ankle injury, at practice.
Coach Mike Smith spoke to the media following practice. When asked about safety Dwight Lowery returning to practice, Smith said, "Yes, we've got a couple of guys back that we had planned on having back sooner than later. Dwight was able to come back out and be a full participant at practice today, and the next step will be to get him some contact work and that will take place at the practice on Monday."
Smith also confirmed that Angerer and Lowery are on the same schedule, saying, "Yes he is [on the same schedule as Lowery]. Both of those guys are in the same stage of the concussion protocol. The first thing they have to do is come back and have a non-contact practice. After they've had their first non-contact practice, the final step is padded, contact practice. The next contact practice will take place on Monday."
When asked about Jake Matthews' performance in the first preseason game, Smith said, "I thought Jake had a really good game. He is on the fast track to be a great player in this League. I thought he did some really good things."
When asked how he felt about the team's performance in the first preseason game, Smith said, "Like all preseason games, they're some things you really like and some things you scratch your head about, as a coach. I think there were some positives. I liked the way the offense started the game with 18 plays. The quarterback went seven for seven. We kept it clean. We got some explosive plays on the offensive side. The young guys earned some more playing time by what they did on the field. [And] there were some negative things. We've got to score touchdowns in the red zone. In this League, if you don't score touchdowns in the red zone, you're going to get beat."
Smith was asked about the red zone action in practice and getting Julio Jones involved in that, and he said, "The practice plan was set in advance. We knew that we needed to get red zone work right after the first preseason game simply because you never know how many snaps you're going to get while playing a game. On average, we're going to get two series. Last night we got three and we were 0-3 and that's something we have to get much better at."
I got the sense that Smitty was not pleased with Devin Hester's fumble. When asked how he thought Hester did in his first preseason game as a Falcons, Smitty said, "I thought Devin did alright. We've got to be more secure with the ball. It's something that we have to drill all of our guys with, so we can make sure that our guys are going after the ball and that we have good ball security. Devin is one of the most explosive punt and kickoff returners in the history of the NFL, so we're glad he's on our team."
When asked about the tackling in the preseason game, Smith was pretty candid, saying, "I thought that there were some very good examples of good tackling. On the very first play of the game, I didn't think we tackled well. We took a poor angle and had a mistackle. But, it was really the second time we had gone out and done the full speed plays so I thought it was pretty good. I thought the secondary did a very good job of attacking the ball. I thought that they did a nice job in terms of illegal contact. We had one illegal contact and that was on a linebacker so there were some positive things there. I'd be remiss if I didn't say that there were some things we did do well and that was one of them. The big thing that sticks out is we can't have nine penalties. Nine penalties for 240 yards gives up what would have been on our stat sheet. We've got to play smarter in terms of the penalties. We can't go through and have these types of numbers as we go through the season, but I did like the effort and the attitude that the guys approached the game with."
Sunday is a scheduled day off for the players. Monday's padded practice will begin at 3:30 p.m. and will end at 5:50 p.m., and it is open to the public. Tuesday's practice time has been changed to 9:00 a.m. and is also open to the public. After that, the team will head to Houston for combined practices with the Texans.