It was a much hotter day Sunday than the Falcons have had to deal with for several days of training camp. There was no cloud cover to provide a reprieve from the sun, and while there was a breeze, it wasn't enough to bring relief from the Georgia sun beating down on the practice fields in Flowery Branch. Tempers ran hot, too. Coaches were demanding excellence from their players, and based on the steady stream of profanity coming from various coaches' mouths, they weren't getting it on every snap. As far as the players, frustration and tempers flared easily.
There have been many, many scuffles between offensive and defensive players during training camp, particularly between the lines. Yesterday rookie DE Ra'Shede Hageman got into it with C Joe Hawley, and Hageman was injured in the process. There has been a lot of discussion on this site about how these fights in practice mean the team is tougher, and a lot of criticism of Mike Smith for saying that fighting was a waste of time and energy. Part of the reason a head coach wouldn't be thrilled about fighting between teammates during practice is the risk of injury to one or both of them. It's a supremely stupid way to get injured. The team is reporting that Hageman did not suffer a fracture and that Hageman will practice fully. All's well that ends well, but I would prefer to see the team focusing less on fighting each other and more on preparing for the season.
Dave also covered the injury to Terren Jones, which turned out to be a concussion. The fact that a concussion seemed like good news after Jones was immobilized on a backboard and carted to an ambulance should impress upon you what a scary moment that really was. The Falcons have confirmed that Jones did, in fact, suffer a concussion and is under the league's concussion protocol.
I didn't focus much on any particular unit yesterday because there was a lot going on throughout practice.
William Moore on safety blitzes should be a thing of beauty this season. I've seen it a few times in training camp, and it's one element of the 2014 Falcons defense that I'm particularly looking forward to seeing in action.
Roddy White has looked phenomenal. The team has him on a pretty limited snap count to keep him fresh, which is standard Smitty protocol for older players and nothing to be alarmed about, but when he is participating on the field, he is consistently good.
There's a lot of communication on the field in scrimmage situations on both sides of the ball. Matt Ryan said recently that implementing communication at the line of scrimmage was a fundamental element of the changes Mike Tice was implementing for the offensive line this season, and I'm seeing a lot of communication and adjustment on the defensive side of the ball, too.
Bear Pascoe has a reputation for being a decent blocking tight end, and he showed that yesterday, driving Malliciah Goodman, who has had a pretty solid camp, right to the ground in a scrimmage situation.
Jabin Sambrano and Josh Wilson had a pretty good little battle yesterday. Sambrano was targeted and Wilson broke up the pass, and on the very next play, Sambrano was targeted and had a really nice completion.
Kemal Ishmael looks to be the favorite at free safety with Dwight Lowery out and Dezmen Southward injured. Ishmael was a free safety in college and was an extremely sure tackler. He has looked good in practice. He has developed a very good understanding of where he needs to be on the field and he looks particularly solid in run support.
The offensive line just did not have a good day in general. Mike Tice was relatively unhappy with the unit throughout practice. Peter Konz and Sam Baker both struggled in one-on-one drills. Jake Matthews and Jonathan Asamoah were bright spots.
Obviously, the injuries were the worst thing to come out of yesterday's practice. Here's hoping the Falcons get through the rest of the preseason, and season, unscathed.
Mike Smith spoke to the media following practice. We have obviously updated the information that is available about the injuries to Ra'Shede Hageman and Terren Jones, so there's no need to get into that, but Smith did address those injuries first and shared that he had no updates at that time.
When asked if the number of injuries in camp was concerning, Smith said he was not concerned because it is essentially a part of the game. Smith said, "I am not concerned about it. We have got to continue to work smart, physical, and passionate. That has been the message from the very beginning. I think we are doing the physical, I think we are doing the passionate, but I don't know if we are always working as smart as we can. That is something we will continue to stress with our players."
Smith said versatility was a factor in the decision to sign safety Tyrell Johnson. Smith said, "[Johnson] has played both strong and free safety. We did a lot of work on him when he was coming out. He was our first draft class and I do remember spending lots of time on him. We know what he is in terms of being able to play both strong and free safety."
When asked about replacing the productivity of Tony Gonzalez--a question that has been on many fans' minds--Smith said, "There might be multiple tight ends that are going to get touches. We are also going to have to redistribute the ball to other players. It's going to give other players, not necessarily tight ends, but other players on our offense the opportunity to get touches."
On today's combined practice with the Tennessee Titans, Smitty said that he thinks it will be a great experience for the offense and the defense to experience something different in terms of schemes and techniques. The team won't be doing any installs on Monday, but will give the players the opportunity to work on all of the things they've learned and practiced thus far. Smith also clarified that there will be no tackling during today's session with the Titans.
What do you hope to learn from today's combined practice with the Titans? What do you think about training camp so far? What are you most eager to see from the team in preseason action this Friday?