It was pretty much a perfect evening at Friday Night Lights. The weather was unseasonably cool, but clear. Traffic was pretty manageable, and it was an extremely well-attended event, with over 13,000 people driving all the way out to Archer High School in Lawrenceville, Georgia to see the Falcons in action.
Our own Andrew Hirsh was also on site and will be sharing his thoughts on the first half of practice, which consisted of various drills as well as some controlled scrimmage situations with limited contact. I'll give you an overview of the scrimmage at the end of practice.
We didn't see much of the first team during the scrimmage, which is fine. It's a golden opportunity for the coaching staff to evaluate players for the roster spots that are up for grabs, and the more time the starters spend participating in contact activities, the greater the risk of injuries the team cannot afford. Already the team is dealing with injuries to Pat Angerer, Steven Jackson, and Dezmen Southward, and tonight they unfortunately added Dwight Lowery to the list. More on that later.
Prince Shembo has impressed me throughout training camp, and he continued to impress in the scrimmage situation tonight.
Antone Smith looked really fast hitting the edge and also caught the ball well.
Jeremy Ebert impressed in drills and again in the scrimmage period. He has good speed, to the point that he burned Trufant in drills, which is an accomplishment.
Safety Sean Baker had a good day, which is encouraging in light of the news about Lowery. He was solid in coverage and against the run.
Bernard Reedy didn't blow me away during the scrimmage period, but he was beyond phenomenal in the drills period of Friday Night Lights. I'm sure Andrew Hirsh will mention this, too, but it bears repeating because Reedy was that impressive.
The last thing you want to see is a player getting injured in an exhibition scrimmage, but that's exactly what happened to Dwight Lowery. Trucking safeties is kind of Jacquizz Rodgers' thing--ask Earl Thomas--but it's certainly a shame that he did it to Dwight Lowery and it resulted in what appears to be a head injury. It's reasonable to assume that Lowery will be placed under the league's concussion protocol, and if there's an update, I'll get that information from Mike Smith tomorrow following practice.
Before I left the field, a lady standing outside the fence asked if I would hand her this ratty towel that was on the ground. It was a sweat towel for the players. I did it, because I'm a nice person, and then I soaked my hands in all of the hand sanitizer I had. Look, we're all fans, but a used towel that has players' sweat on it? No, thank you.
I think training camp is pretty boring for the special teams guys. They all seem to have a great attitude about it, and when they are all called upon to do things they're immediately focused. They just don't get to do much. That may change for Bosher if he is called upon to play free safety.
During the evening, Julio Jones was interviewed on the field. When asked what he thought about meeting up with the Saints in the Georgia Dome in week one he said, "Let's get it."
The post-practice comments were very brief, thanks in significant part to the sounds of fireworks and Black Eyed Peas as Mike Smith spoke to the media. Smitty did say that he did not believe Lowery's injury was serious. He spoke about his affection for the feeling of coming out and playing under the Friday Night Lights, and he also joked about breakdancing when Black Eyed Peas were playing so loudly that it made it nearly impossible to hear his comments.
William Moore on his teammate Dwight Lowery's injury: "We come out here 100% and things like that happen. Dwight, he's a heck of a player, and I really don't know what happened to him or whatnot. That's--I didn't even ask because I know he's okay. He got up and walked on his own."
Notes from Thursday's practice
I was also at practice on Thursday, and Friday was hectic for me, so I'm just now getting around to updating you on that day at camp. Thanks for being patient.
Devonta Freeman has impressed consistently throughout camp thus far. Good vision, instincts, and the versatility to catch the ball as well as run it.
Kemal Ishmael has really developed a more complete awareness of where he needs to be on the field and his coverage and run defense were both impressive on Thursday. He filled in at free safety for Lowery following his injury Friday night and also looked decent.
The run defense really impressed me. They were just swarming on the offense. That's something I'm eager to see duplicated in a game situation.
Shembo was impressive again. He has impressed every day. His situational awareness is good and he is really solid in coverage.
Bryan Cox is just the most fun coach to watch. If the defense is playing well, nobody is more excited than Bryan Cox. If they're not playing well, nobody is more profane than Bryan Cox. They played well on Thursday.
Matt Ryan connected with Julio Jones on a beautiful deep ball and it was spectacular.
We got the news that Pat Angerer's injury is also a concussion. Middle linebacker is another position with questionable depth, so hopefully he will return soon.
Mike Smith was pleased with the intensity of Thursday's practice. The players were rested after a day off, and they were eager to hit someone. "One session was won by the offense," Smith said, "and one session was won by the defense. That's what you really want at this point in time."
On Peria Jerry's retirement, Smitty said that Jerry pulled him aside after lunch on Thursday to break the news that he planned to retire. Smith did not divulge any further details.
Smitty talked about the snap counts for Julio Jones, as well was Roddy White and some other older players. Julio, of course, is on a one day on, one day off practice schedule. For Kroy Biermann, he will practice two days and rest the third day, and other players just have limits on how many practice snaps they may take in a day.
When asked if he cheered when Matt Ryan completed a long pass to Julio Jones toward the end of practice, Smitty said it would depend on if he had his offensive or defensive coaching hat on at that particular time, but did clarify that he was focused on offense during that particular play. "I have to say that I had my offensive hat on, and I was very excited to see Julio and QB Matt Ryan hook up on some long balls," Smith said.
Smitty again emphasized the "bigger and stronger" defensive line, and when asked about line coach Bryan Cox, Smith said, ""As a former player, I think that Coach Cox has a lot of energy and passion about the game. He's been doing it a long time and he can talk to our guys about what it's like in the locker room at different times in the season, so he can be a mentor for these guys. He's working with [Defensive Coordinator] Mike [Nolan] and the rest of defensive staff very well."
Julio Jones also spoke to the media after practice. Dave has already updated regarding the cleat the Under Armour built for Jones from the ground up to help protect his foot. Julio had quite a bit to say about his injury and the recovery process, as well as his status for the coming season.
In terms of his schedule, Jones said, "What they are doing right now with me is on and off. Practice one day, off another. You know, it's just still progressing. Keep going and going. The biggest key is that they want me ready for New Orleans."
On how he is feeling: "I feel great, but we don't want to rush anything. It is nothing right now, I am just practicing. It doesn't improve anything if I go out here and run 40-50 routes in practice, and then something happens."
On developing and maturing as a leader, Jones said, "This will be my 4th year. I have got a good grasp on the game and on the playbook. These young guys, they struggle with certain things. They don’t know why they are running a route. I have the opportunity, now, to be a coach as well. I feel good about it. I am helping the team right now."
Jones said that he anticipates being fully ready to go in preseason, but that the decision on whether or not to play him is not his call. And on his explosive nature, Jones said, "I feel real good. Like I told them, I have gained a little weight. I think it is more muscle than fat or anything like that. I feel explosive, I still feel fast. I still feel like I can beat one-on-one match ups."
What do you think about the performances at Thursday's camp and Friday Night Lights? Weigh in!